Wednesday, March 02, 2005                                               The Daily Battle Against Subjectivity
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Snow in the Baronnies
Copyright 2005 Pierre-Paul Feyte

Open Letter From George W Bush To The American People

Dear Western World (and all others blessed by a Western-style corpotocracy instead of a representative government),

It has come to my attention that you are unaware of one very important piece of information. This information is so important that I (along with my media whores) will be taking time out from my busy schedule to personally bring you the facts over the next few months.

This information is shocking, not least for a decent home-loving boy like myself, so I urge you to brace yourself and ensure that you are in a seated position:


Yes indeedy folks, while we may have been buddies up until recently, we may have meddled in their affairs and installed the regime that suited us best at the time, we may have known for years that the Iranian clerics pursue a somewhat less than "free" form of government, but things have changed, and current needs dictate that you, my darling public morons, begin to believe fervently that Satan himself lives in Tehran.

To this end you will begin to see all manner of reports in the mainstream media which will subtly inform you of just how evil Iran is, and just how much its people need a good dose of American-style freedom and democracy. During this time, you may feel slightly uncomfortable and the nagging sense that you are being manipulated may arise; this is normal, do not adjust your television sets, the feeling will pass - try eating a tube of toothpaste (the extra flouride kind).

To get the ball rolling, consider the following:

Journalist is jailed for 14 years after 'insulting' authority

By Daniel Howden
25 February 2005

A prominent Iranian journalist and blogger has been sentenced to 14 years in prison on charges ranging from spying to aiding counter-revolutionaries. His sentence comes as part of the latest clerical crackdown on freedom of speech.

Arash Sigarchi, a regional newspaper editor, was accused of inciting a riot through his writings and insulting the authorities. His lawyer, Mohammad Saifzadeh, questioned the authority of the court and said he would appeal. [...]

I know you will all join with me in condemning those evil Iranian Muslim, Persian devils! All this poor guy was doing was exercising his free speech on the net! And he gets 14 years in jail for it! Now that's just pure old-fashioned evil folks! These people need to be taught a lesson!

Mr Sigarchi is said by authorities to be a paid employee of Farda radio, a US-funded station based in Prague. Hardliners in Iran accuse the network of seeking to incite public unrest and destabilise the ruling Islamic establishment.

Now just in case you happen to come across it, there are some reports out there that this particular person was being used by the CIA to stir up popular revolt in Iran and that, as such, he has little to complain about. There are also some allegations that the CIA facilitated his arrest so that the Iranian government could then be condemned in the world press. I would just like to confirm that such claims are scurrilous and that such covert operations simply do not occur.

The previous August (1989) a contingent of the Maktal (Mossad reconnaissance unit) and several naval commandos had headed up the Euphrates, their target was an explosives factory located in the city of Al-Iskandariah. Information the Mossad had received from American intelligence revealed that every thursday a small convoy of trucks came to the complex to be loaded with explosives for the purpose of manufacturing cannon shells. The objective was to take position near the base on Wednesday August 23rd and wait until the next day when the trucks would be loaded. At that point, several sharpshooters would fire one round each of an explosive bullet at a designated truck while they were in the process of loading, so that there would be a carry on explosion into the storage facility.

The operation was quite successful and the explosion generated the sort of publicity the Mossad was hoping for in attracting attention to Saddam's constant efforts at building a gigantic and powerful military arsenal. The Mossad shared its "findings" with the Western intelligence agencies and leaked the story of the explosion to the press.

Since this was a guarded facility Western reporters had minimal access to it. However, at the beginning of September, the Iraqis were inviting Western media people to visit Iraq and see the rebuilding that had taken place after the [Iran-Iraq] war, and the Mossad saw an opportunity to conduct a damage assessment.

A man calling himself Michel Rubiyer saying he was working for the French newspaper "le figaro", approached Farzad Bazoft, a thirty one year old reporter freelancing for the British newspaper the Observer. Rubiyer was in fact Michel M. a Mossad agent.

Michel told Farzad that he would pay him handsomely and print his story if he would join a group of journalists heading for Baghdad. The reason he gave for not going himself was that he had been black-listed in Iraq. He pointed out the Bazoft could use the money and the break especially with his criminal background. Michel told the stunned reporter that he knew of his arrest in 1981 for armed robbery in Northhampton England. Along with the implied threat he told Bazoft that he would be able to print his story in the Observer as well.

Michel told Bazoft to collect information regarding the explosion ask questions about it get sketches of the area and collect earth samples. He told the worried reporter that Saddam would not dare harm a reporter even if he was unhappy with him. The worst the Saddam would do was kick him out of the country, which would in itself make him famous.

Why this particular reporter? He was of Iranian background and would make punishing him much easier for the Iraqis and he wasn't a European whom they would probably only hold and then kick out. In fact, Bazoft had been identified in a Mossad search that was triggered by his prying into another Mossad case in search of a story involving an ex-Mossad asset Dr Cyrus Hashemi who was eliminated by mossad in 1986. Since Bazoft had already stumbled on too much information for his own good - or the Mossad's for that matter - he was the perfect candidate for this job of snooping in forbidden areas.

Bazoft made his way to the location as he was asked and as might be expected was arrested. Tragically, his British girlfriend, a nurse working in a baghdad hospital was arrested as well.

Within a few days of his arrest, a Mossad liaison in the US called the Iraqi representative in Holland and said that Jerusalem was willing to make a deal for the release of their man who had been captured. the Iraqi representative asked for time to contact Baghdad, and the liaison called the next day, at which point he told the Iraqi representative it was all a big mistake and severed contact. Now the Iraqis had no doubt that they had a real spy on their hands, and they were going to see him hang. All the Mossad had to do was sit back and watch as Saddam proved to the world what a monster he really was.

On March 15th 1990 Farzad Bazoft, who had been held in the Abu Gharib prison met briefly with the British Ambassador to Iraq.

A few minutes after the meeting he was hanged. (The Other Side of Deception, Victor Ostrovsky)

I know y'all will join with me in condemning the targetting of journalists for simply reporting factual information that is damaging to a government as despicable behavior that should never be tolerated.

US Troops Target Journalists in Iraq

During one of the discussions about the number of journalists killed in the Iraq War, Eason Jordan (Chief News Executive of CNN) asserted that he knew of 12 journalists who had not only been killed by US troops in Iraq, but they had in fact been targeted.

Moving quickly along. Consider this next most disturbing report

Iran girl gets 100 lashes for sex

A teenage girl and two young men in Iran have been sentenced to lashes for having sex.

The court dismissed the girl's claim that she was raped. It said she had sex of her own free will, the official Iran Daily newspaper reported.

The girl was sentenced to 100 lashes because her accusations of rape and kidnap could have landed her partners a death penalty, the Tehran judge said.

Sex outside marriage is illegal in Iran and capital punishment can be imposed.

The young men in the case were sentenced to 30 and 40 lashes each.

Rights violations

The Iran paper quotes the girl, who has not been named, as confessing: "I trusted one of these young men, whom I got to know by phone, and went to his place.

"But because he betrayed me, I filed the case against him and his friend out of revenge."

This kind of thing goes on all the time in Iran, people! What more do we need to know?! This country is clearly in need of democratising! Think about the children! Think back to just before Gulf War I. Remember those babies in incubators? Okay, so we made that story up, but it was true in the sense that it correctly protrayed the image that we wanted you all to have of Saddam, and it worked! Sure, we may have killed 500,000 Iraqi children as a result of sanctions in the 10 years after the Gulf war, but that wasn't our fault! It was Saddam and his evil regime who wouldn't allow a US take over of his oil fields!

Clearly something must be done for the Iranian people. I know that my fellow Americans will join with me in refusing to sit back smugly and keep all of the freedom and democracy to ourselves, heck! there's plenty to go around, right!? I mean, have ever thought about just what we have to offer the world!

"Free Speech" Zones

Human rights groups take Rumsfeld to court

Wednesday, 2 March , 2005

ELEANOR HALL: It's the most high profile court case over abuse of US detainees, the United States the Defence Secretary, Donald Rumsfeld, is being taken to court over allegations he authorised torture in Iraq and Afghanistan. [...]

Under cover of human rights

Viet Nam News Agency, Vietnam

Ha Noi (VNA) - Again, the United States used the label of human rights and democracy to interfere in the internal affairs of sovereign countries...

United States violates international human rights standards

US Tortures Innocent Iraqis at Abu Gharib

The 'Salvador Option' may put death-squad-like
kidnapping and assassination teams in Iraq

What to do about the deepening quagmire of Iraq? The Pentagon's latest approach is being called "the Salvador option"-and the fact that it is being discussed at all is a measure of just how worried Donald Rumsfeld really is. "What everyone agrees is that we can't just go on as we are," one senior military officer told Newsweek. "We have to find a way to take the offensive against the insurgents. Right now, we are playing defense. And we are losing." Last November's operation in Fallujah, most analysts agree, succeeded less in breaking "the back" of the insurgency-as Marine Gen. John Sattler optimistically declared at the time-than in spreading it out.

Now, Newsweek has learned, the Pentagon is intensively debating an option that dates back to a still-secret strategy in the Reagan administration's battle against the leftist guerrilla insurgency in El Salvador in the early 1980s. Then, faced with a losing war against Salvadoran rebels, the U.S. government funded or supported "nationalist" forces that allegedly included so-called death squads directed to hunt down and kill rebel leaders and sympathizers. Eventually the insurgency was quelled, and many U.S. conservatives consider the policy to have been a success-despite the deaths of innocent civilians and the subsequent Iran-Contra arms-for-hostages scandal. (Among the current administration officials who dealt with Central America back then is John Negroponte, who is today the U.S. ambassador to Iraq. Under Reagan, he was ambassador to Honduras.)

Following that model, one Pentagon proposal would send Special Forces teams to advise, support and possibly train Iraqi squads, most likely hand-picked Kurdish Peshmerga fighters and Shiite militiamen, to target Sunni insurgents and their sympathizers, even across the border into Syria, according to military insiders familiar with the discussions. It remains unclear, however, whether this would be a policy of assassination or so-called "snatch" operations, in which the targets are sent to secret facilities for interrogation. The current thinking is that while U.S. Special Forces would lead operations in, say, Syria, activities inside Iraq itself would be carried out by Iraqi paramilitaries, officials tell Newsweek.

Nuns and others pray over the bodies of the four US churchwomen raped and murdered by US-backed Salvadoran death squads

Cop's Taser puts boy in cardiac arrest

February 9, 2005

A 14-year-old boy went into cardiac arrest after police used a stun gun to subdue him, authorities said Tuesday.

More than a day after the Monday morning incident, the boy remained unconscious at Children's Memorial Hospital, Cook County Public Guardian Robert Harris said. Harris questioned why police used a Taser on the boy, a ward of the state who was living at a residential treatment center on the North Side.

74 people have died after being shocked with a Taser

US flouts world opinion and Geneva Convention in treatment of Afghan war prisoners

NASA computer programmer hired by Congressman to develop vote rigging software

Yes indeed, with the United States having lead the field over many decades in the art of spreading "freedom and democracy", who better to take the project to the next level and truly democratise the Middle East.

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Pharisee Nation
John Dear – 02/17/05 "CommonDreams"

Last September, I spoke to some 2,000 students during their annual lecture at a Baptist college in Pennsylvania. After a short prayer service for peace centered on the Beatitudes, I took the stage and got right to the point. "Now let me get this straight," I said. "Jesus says, ‘Blessed are the peacemakers,’ which means he does not say, ‘Blessed are the warmakers,’ which means, the warmakers are not blessed, which means warmakers are cursed, which means, if you want to follow the nonviolent Jesus you have to work for peace, which means, we all have to resist this horrific, evil war on the people of Iraq."

With that, the place exploded, and 500 students stormed out. The rest of them then started chanting, "Bush! Bush! Bush!"

So much for my speech. Not to mention the Beatitudes.

I was not at all surprised that George W. Bush was reelected president. As I travel the country speaking out against war, injustice and nuclear weapons, I see many people consciously siding with the culture of war, choosing the path of violence, supporting corporate greed, rampant militarism, and global domination. I see many others swept up in the raging current of patriotism. Since most of these people, beginning with the president, claim to be Christian, I am ashamed and appalled that they support war and systemic injustice, that they do it in the name of God, and that they feign fidelity to the nonviolent Jesus who gave his life resisting institutionalized injustice.

I am reminded of Flannery O’Connor’s great book, "Wise Blood," where her outrageous character Hazel Motes is so fed up with Christian hypocrisy that he forms his own church, the "Church of Christ without Christ," "where the lame don’t walk, the blind don’t see, and the dead don’t rise." That’s where we are headed today.

I used to think these all-American Christians never read the Gospel, that they simply chose not to be authentic disciples of the nonviolent Jesus. Now, alas, I think they have indeed chosen discipleship, but not to the hero of the Gospels, Jesus. Instead, through their actions, they have become disciples of the devout, religious, all-powerful, murderous Pharisees who killed him.

A Culture of Pharisees

We have become a culture of Pharisees. Instead of practicing an authentic spirituality of compassion, nonviolence, love and peace, we as a collective people have become self-righteous, arrogant, powerful, murderous hypocrites who dominate and kill others in the name of God. The Pharisees supported the brutal Roman rulers and soldiers, and lived off the comforts of the empire by running an elaborate banking system which charged an exorbitant fee for ordinary people just to worship God in the Temple. Since they taught that God was present only in the Temple, they were able to control the entire population. If anyone opposed their power or violated their law, the Pharisees could kill them on the spot, even in the holy sanctuary.

Most North American Christians are now becoming more and more like these hypocritical Pharisees. We side with the rulers, the bankers, and the corporate millionaires and billionaires. We run the Pentagon, bless the bombing raids, support executions, make nuclear weapons and seek global domination for America as if that was what the nonviolent Jesus wants. And we dismiss anyone who disagrees with us.

We have become a mean, vicious people, what the bible calls "stiff-necked people." And we do it all with the mistaken belief that we have the blessing of God.

In the past, empires persecuted religious groups and threatened them into passivity and silence. Now these so-called Christians run the American empire, and teach a subtle spirituality of empire to back up their power in the name of God. This spirituality of empire insists that violence saves us, might makes right, war is justified, bombing raids are blessed, nuclear weapons offer the only true security from terrorism, and the good news is not love for our enemies, but the elimination of them. The empire is working hard these days to tell the nation--and the churches--what is moral and immoral, sinful and holy. It denounces certain personal behavior as immoral, in order to distract us from the blatant immorality and mortal sin of the U.S. bombing raids which have left 100,000 Iraqis dead, or our ongoing development of thousands of weapons of mass destruction. Our Pharisee rulers would have us believe that our wars and our weapons are holy and blessed by God.

In the old days, the early Christians had big words for such behavior, such lies. They were called "blasphemous, idolatrous, heretical, hypocritical and sinful." Such words and actions were denounced as the betrayal, denial and execution of Jesus all over again in the world’s poor. But the empire needs the church to bless and support its wars, or at least to remain passive and silent. As we Christians go along with the Bush administration and the American empire, we betray Jesus, renounce his teachings, and create a "Church of Christ without Christ," as Flannery O’Connor foresaw. [...]

If we dare call ourselves Christian, we cannot support war or nuclear weapons or corporate greed or executions or systemic injustice of any kind. If we do, we may well be devout American citizens, but we no longer follow the nonviolent Jesus. We have joined the hypocrites and blasphemers of the land, beginning with their leaders in the White House, the Pentagon and Los Alamos.

Jesus resisted the empire, engaged in nonviolent civil disobedience in the Temple, was arrested by the Pharisees, tried by the Roman governor and executed by Roman soldiers. If we dare follow this nonviolent revolutionary, we too must resist empire, engage in nonviolent civil disobedience against U.S. warmaking and imperial domination, and risk arrest and imprisonment like the great modern day disciples, Martin Luther King, Jr., Dorothy Day and Philip Berrigan.

If we do not want to be part of the Pharisaic culture and do want to follow the nonviolent Jesus, we have to get in trouble just as Jesus was constantly in trouble for speaking the truth, loving the wrong people, worshipping the wrong way, and promoting the wrong things, like justice and peace. We have to resist this new American empire, as well as its false spirituality and all those who claim to be Christian yet support the murder of other human beings. We have to repent of the sin of war, put down the sword, practice Gospel nonviolence, and take up the cross of revolutionary nonviolence by loving our enemies and discovering what the spiritual life is all about.

Just because the culture and the cultural church have joined with the empire and its wars does not mean that we all have to go along with such heresy, or fall into despair as if nothing can be done. It is never too late to try to follow the troublemaking Jesus, to join his practice of revolutionary nonviolence and become authentic Christians. We may find ourselves in trouble, even at the hands of so-called Christians, just as Jesus was in trouble at the hands of the so-called religious leaders of his day. But this very trouble may lead us back to those Beatitude blessings.

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Nuclear Terror at Home

If you can imagine some rational observers from Mars looking at this curious species down here, I don't think they'd put very high odds on survival--another generation or two. In fact, it's kind of miraculous that we've come along this far.

The world has come extremely close to total destruction just in recent years from nuclear war. New Mexico plays an important role in this. There's case after case where a nuclear war was prevented almost by a miracle. And the threat is increasing as a consequence of policies that the administration is very consciously pursuing.

U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld understands perfectly well that these policies are increasing the threat of destruction. As you know, it's not a high probability event, but if a low probability event keeps happening over and over, there's a high probability that sooner or later it will take place.

If you want to rank issues in terms of significance, there are some issues that are literally issues of survival of the species, and they're imminent. Nuclear war is an issue of species survival, and the threats have been severe for a long time.

It's come to the point where you can read in the most sober respectable journals warnings by the leading strategic analysts that the current American posture--transformation of the military--is raising the prospect of what they call "ultimate doom" and not very far away. That's because it leads to an action-reaction cycle in which others respond. That leads us to be closer and more reliant on hair-trigger mechanisms, which are massively destructive.

Militarization of space could very well doom the species. It's being pushed very hard. That's one issue that really requires major work and that's a huge one in New Mexico. New Mexico is one of the centers where this potential destruction of the species is taking place.

There's a document called The Essentials of Post Cold War Deterrence that was released during the Clinton years by the Strategic Command, which is in charge of nuclear weapons. It's one of the most horrifying documents I've ever read. People haven't paid attention to it.

The Strategic Command report asks how we should reconstruct our nuclear and other forces for the post-Cold War period. And the conclusions are that we have to rely primarily on nuclear weapons because unlike other weapons of mass destruction, such as chemical and biological, the effects of nuclear weapons are immediate, devastating, overwhelming--not only destructive but terrifying. So they have to be the core of what's called deterrence.

Everything means the opposite of what it says. Deterrence means our offensive stance should primarily be based on nuclear weapons because they're so destructive and terrifying. And furthermore just the possession of massive nuclear forces casts a shadow over any international conflict, like people are frightened of us because we have this overwhelming force.

We have to have a national persona of irrationality with forces out of control, so we really terrify everybody, and then we can get what we want. And furthermore they're right to be terrified because we're going to have these nuclear weapons right in front of us, which will blow them all up--in fact, blow us all up if they get out of control.

If you read the vision for 2020 published by the Space Administration, it talks about how the new frontier is space--and that we have to take control of space for military purposes and make sure that we have no competitors. That means the space-based instruments of sudden mass destruction.

There was an outer space treaty in 1967, which doesn't have any teeth in it but it does call for preserving space for peaceful purposes. And there have been efforts at the U.N. General Assembly Disarmament Committee to strengthen it. But they've been blocked unilaterally by the United States. The United States alone refuses to vote for the General Assembly resolution, and it's been tied up since the year 2000. The Chinese are the ones who are pushing to expand it. That's not reported in the United States. In the year 2000 it was only reported in one newspaper, a small newspaper in Utah.

The whole world is supposed to be covered with--probably is--with sophisticated surveillance devices and the whole range of complex, lethal, destructive weaponry designed to be able to attack anything from space. This means nuclear weapons in space--nuclear energy sources in space--which can get out of control and blow up and who knows what will happen.

When the Bush administration took over they just made it more extreme. They moved from the Clinton doctrine of control of space to what they call ownership of space, meaning--their words--"instant engagement anywhere" or unannounced destruction of any place on earth.

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Rumsfeld sued over prisoner abuse
Wednesday 02 March 2005, 3:45 Makka Time, 0:45 GMT

Two US human rights groups have sued Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, saying he first authorised, then failed to stop torture of prisoners in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and Human Rights First on Tuesday filed suit in federal district court in Rumsfeld's home state of Illinois on behalf of eight former detainees who said they were severely tortured.

All eight were subsequently released without being charged.
"Secretary Rumsfeld bears direct and ultimate responsibility for this descent into horror by personally authorising unlawful interrogation techniques and by abdicating his legal duty to stop torture," said Lucas Guttentag, lead counsel in the case.
The Pentagon denied that it ever sanctioned or condoned the abuse of detainees.
"There have been multiple investigations into the various aspects of detainee abuse. None have concluded there was a policy of abuse," the Defence Department said in a statement. 

Similar complaints

The ACLU filed similar complaints against three other senior officers: Colonel Thomas Pappas, General Janis Karpinski and Lieutenant-General Ricardo Sanchez on behalf of prisoners mistreated at Iraq's Abu Ghraib prison. 

The suit against Rumsfeld focuses on an order he signed in December 2002 that authorised new interrogation techniques for detainees in the "war on terror" being held at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba.

These included "stress positions", hooding, 20-hour interrogations, removal of clothing, exploiting phobias, prolonged isolation and sensory deprivation.
When evidence became overwhelming that prisoners were being tortured, Rumsfeld turned a blind eye, the suit alleges.
"Secretary Rumsfeld knew full well that his orders were causing torture and he knew that torture was occurring on a widespread basis and he did not stop it," Guttentag said. 

The plaintiffs want the court to declare Rumsfeld's actions unconstitutional and a violation of US and international law.

They are seeking monetary damages for their injuries and all eight are willing to come to the US to testify. 

Horrifying abuse
The plaintiffs - four Afghan citizens and four Iraqis - allege treatment that included beatings, being cut with knives, sexual abuse and humiliation, being locked in coffin-like boxes, being deprived of food and water and threatened with execution and hung upside down for hours.       

Arkan Muhammad Ali, a 26-year-old Iraqi held for a year from June 2003 to 2004, alleges that US personnel twice beat him unconscious, used a knife to repeatedly stab and slice his forearm, burned and shocked him with a metal device, locked him naked for several days in a small wooden box, urinated on him and made death threats against him.
Mehboob Ahmad, a 35-year-old Afghan citizen held for five months in 2003, said he was probed anally, hung upside down from the ceiling by a chain and hung by his arms for extended periods.
The mistreatment of prisoners became an international scandal after the appearance last year of pictures showing sexual abuse of men at Abu Ghraib.

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The ancillary benefits of torture
by Brig. Gen. Gus ‘Sparky' Bloodworth,
as told to Don Nash ,Unknown News
March 1, 2005

There is nothing like the smell of burning enemy combatants in the morning. An electrode or two placed discreetly on sensitive areas of the human body hardly even leaves a mark. Add some electrical stimulation and an enemy combatant suddenly has a remarkable sense of rhythm. Even the most ardent of Islamists will sing like a Robin in the springtime. Depending on the amperage that is established at the outset of a session, you can almost reproduce the smells of a summer barbecue.

You can eliminate the screaming through the use of a little duct tape. We got that idea from Tommy Ridge. The plastic sheeting comes in handy in the event of the application of too much electricity. It does happen from time to time.

It's absolutely hilarious to watch grown hard-core fundamentalist terrorists wet themselves when they are confronted by a trained attack dog. These guys think they are so tough -- well, let me tell you, they'll cry and whimper like little school girls when faced by a dog on a short leash. There is a thrilling, almost heavenly euphoria that is induced by holding an enemy combatant's feet to the teeth of a snarling dog.

Thank the good Lord that Iraq is a lawless haven for cowboys, soldiers, and the dogs of war. If this were any other even halfway civilized country, we'd never get away with the stuff that we can get away with here. It's a good thing that George Bush doesn't read the ‘intelligence' that we can produce here. He'd never understand it in the first place, and in the second place, it's all made up anyway.

We can get an enemy combatant to say anything that we want him or her to say. We almost had Haji ready to admit to swallowing those weapons of mass destruction and therefore the Iraq Survey Group couldn't find them. If I'd of had ten more minutes with our pal Haji ... it's just too bad. Our dogs ate very well that day.

For certain, we have learned the breaking point of your typical enemy combatant who is also an Islamist and a fundamentalist terrorist. Discovering their breaking point was the single most important ancillary benefit to our use of torture. That and the numerous vagaries that we were able to get them to admit to. Believe me, they'll admit to anything by the time we are finished with them.

I understand that there are the bleeding hearts across America who whine and moan about "cruelty" and "inhumane treatment" of those that are undeserving of humane treatment. We only torture enemy combatants and people we're pretty sure or suspect or look like enemy combatants. And on occasion, we do torture their wives and children, but that is ancillary.

We've been able to acquisition an excellent medical team that can undo the harm and marks that are sometimes left on the enemy combatants. That is unfortunate but we have overcome the obstacles to the obvious.

In conclusion allow me to add, God bless George Bush. God bless America and to the victors go the spoils.

Most sincerely yours,
Brig. Gen. Gus ‘Sparky' Bloodworth
Psy-Ops Command, U.S. Army
- Guantanamo Bay, Cuba
- Abu Ghraib Prison, Iraq
- And at least 24 secret U.S. prisons in secret locations, worldwide

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Pain, but no gain: the reality of torture

Sunday Herald | February 27 2005

EARLIER this year, in an anonymous building in east London, Channel 4 set up its latest reality show house. This one did not require a hot tub or chickens, but the spirit of the original, Orwellian, Big Brother hovered around it. No-one was voted out, but three of its seven voluntary inhabitants left before the 48-hour shoot was over.
In that time, the volunteers, all men, were, to varying degrees, lightly tortured: stripped, slapped, subjected to extremes of temperature, screamed at, touched, blindfolded, shackled, forced to soil themselves, deprived of food, disoriented, isolated, intimidated, humiliated, threatened, deprived of sleep, and then put through it all again.

The first to leave was taken out after 10 hours, suffering stress and hypothermia. The last, one of the first to vomit, finally asked to be let out because he couldn’t take what was being done to him anymore. Earlier, he had become so distracted he’d failed to notice his handcuffs had cut off the blood to his hands. Interviewed later, he seemed shocked numb.

What to make of The Guantanamo Guidebook? This one-off, which recreates inside a Hackney warehouse procedures used at the US prison camp in Cuba, where "enemy combatants" have been detained without charge since 2002, is the centrepiece of Channel 4’s week-long Torture strand.

The season explores a post-9/11 acceptance of, even appetite for, torture – or, to use the Newspeak euphemism, "enhanced interrogation techniques" – within the US and UK administrations. An acceptance this has led to Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib, and to the situation where Britain will happily use information extracted from captives in Uzbekistan, whose intelligence agencies (according to Craig Murray, our former ambassador to that country) boil their prisoners alive.

Murray discusses our Uzbek allies in The Dirty Business, a documentary by Andrew Gilligan which concentrates mainly on America’s "Special Removal Unit," a covert team specialising in kidnapping suspects then transporting them to countries where they will be tortured, Syria, Egypt, Morocco and Jordan among them.

The details of the techniques replicated in The Guantanamo Guidebook, meanwhile, came to light via declassified internal documents, official investigations, leaked memos, and from detainees themselves. Since being released without charge, these men have testified to undergoing everything from being chained and beaten, to being nearly drowned, to being threatened with dogs, to being raped.

Clive Stafford-Smith, the British lawyer who represents Guantanamo detainees, has heard this testimony first hand, and gives the Torture season’s opening, keynote address, Is Torture A Good Idea? His horrified, impassioned film argues that the policies and paradigm shifts currently being pushed through are not simply greasing a slippery slope, but actually ripping democracy and law apart beneath our feet, in a way that will return to haunt us.

It is The Guantanamo Guidebook, however, that will be the talking point. There is a danger about the programme. The intentions – to confront us with what is happening – seem clear, but it could shoot itself in the foot. It requires a lot from a viewer. In a sense, you have to bear in mind that it’s a TV show while forgetting it’s a TV show.

You must remember that these techniques are only the mildest of those actually employed; that these volunteers can leave at any time. Then, for it to work, you must imagine this is not the case. It teeters between documentary experiment, and some hardcore reality revival of Endurance, the famous Japanese gameshow, whose contestants won for being able to stand having their nipples burned the longest. It is easy to imagine someone watching thinking, "I could handle that". Indeed, the original adverts for volunteers asked prospective entrants how "hard" they were. It unwittingly runs the risk of introducing the idea that light torture might not be so bad. But it is grim, genuinely unsettling watching, and maybe constructive. If all The Guantanamo Guidebook manages is to force us to glimpse the tip of the iceberg, then wonder more about what enormities lie beneath, it’s worthwhile.

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From Baghdad to Beirut
Asia Times
Pepe Escobar
February 16, 2005

Blame it on Syria. Blame it on al-Qaeda. Better yet, blame it both on Syria and al-Qaeda. Without a shred of evidence - or perhaps profiting from "intelligence" amassed by the Pentagon, the Israeli Mossad, or both - the Bush administration immediately blamed Syria for the bombing that killed "Mr Beirut", former Lebanese prime minister Rafik Hariri. And Washington recalled its ambassador to Damascus, Margaret Scobey.

Taking Baghdad to Beirut may be read for what the denomination implies: the destabilization of Iraq - a key Washington neo-conservative objective - exported to the wider Middle East. What many had feared - the "Lebanonization" of Iraq, bringing back the tragic memories of the Lebanese civil war of 1975-1990 - might be forced, with this assassination, to happen in reverse: the Iraqification of Lebanon.

Sectarian tension will most likely be exacerbated - especially when one knows that sectarianism is enshrined in Lebanon: the president has to be a Christian Maronite, the prime minister a Sunni (like Hariri) and the speaker of parliament a Shi'ite (the parallel is inevitable with Shi'ites/Kurds/Sunnis trying to carve up the new Iraqi government).

The Saudi connection

An unknown "Group for Advocacy and Holy War in the Levant" at first assumed responsibility on al-Jazeera television for the bombing, before another unknown group, the "al-Qaeda Organization in the Levant" dismissed on an Islamist website any Salafist/jihadi involvement. "This is clearly an operation that was planned by a state intelligence agency ... and we blame either the Mossad, the Syrian regime or the Lebanese regime," its statement said. The Levant (Bilad as-Sham in Arabic) historically included Syria, Lebanon, Jordan and Palestine, before the creation of Israel.

As far as "al-Qaeda" is concerned, it is well known in the Middle East that Palestinians working for the Israeli Mossad have been captured before and posed as members of a fake al-Qaeda cell in Gaza - a perfect justification for Israeli intervention there. The only credible al-Qaeda connection might be related to the fact that Hariri was a Sunni, Saudi-Lebanese billionaire involved in all kinds of deals, some of them shady. He remained heavily connected with Saudi Arabia, and still kept his Saudi passport. Thus the assassination might have been an external operation connected to al-Qaeda's internal offensive against the House of Saud.

Who benefits?

Only Israel appears to benefit from Hariri's assassination. Significantly, one of Hariri's consultants, Mustafa al-Naser, told Iranian state news agency IRNA on Monday that "the assassination of Hariri is the Israeli intelligence agency Mossad's job, aimed at creating political tension in Lebanon". An array of Arab Middle East analysts, as well as the Lebanese government, point out that the blast was eerily similar to previous Israeli-orchestrated bombings against former Palestinian leaders.

International public opinion may forget that it was current Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, then a general, who invaded Lebanon in 1982, supported by falangists, practically destroyed Beirut and plunged Lebanon into civil war. Hariri was Sharon's opposite: almost single-handedly he guided Beirut's reconstruction.

Sharon's government may now blame its fierce enemy Syria - as it has already done - for Hariri's assassination. Syria and Israel, technically, remain at war. Moreover, if the accusation sticks, Sharon benefits from public opinion turning to revulsion against Syria in the wider Middle East. The logical progression would lead to a joint Israeli/US attack against the Syrian regime by early 2006 at the latest - which, in conjunction with an attack against Iran's nuclear facilities, compose what is no secret to anyone: the ultimate neo-con dream ticket.

The neo-con agenda - which happens to be Sharon's agenda - is once again pure divide and conquer: the aim is to destabilize what neo-cons see as the emerging "Shi'ite crescent" in the Middle East - Iran, the new Iraq and Lebanon, with Syria as a key transit point. A key component of this strategy is to strike a blow against Hezbollah. It's important to note that the new Shi'ite-dominated government in Iraq will be a keen supporter of Hezbollah.

Hezbollah plays a very important political and social role in Lebanese life. As for the 16,000 or so Syrian troops, they are in Lebanon basically to protect it against another Israeli invasion. Israel occupied part of southern Lebanon until it was thrown out by Hezbollah. The Syrian regime is instrumental in helping Hezbollah, as well as an array of Palestinian armed groups. Hezbollah may be aligned with Iran, but its intelligence, weapons and most of all financing flows from Iran to Lebanon via Syria. The White House and the State Department's key agenda in the current offensive calling for Syria's troops to leave Lebanon is to cut support for Hezbollah - therefore leaving Israel worry-free as far as its northern border is concerned. Washington's interest has nothing to do with "spreading freedom" to Lebanon.

Looking for a smoking gun

Locally, everybody is a loser with Hariri's assassination: the Lebanese; the Syrian government; and other Arab neighbors as well (Hariri was widely respected as a strong leader and a factor of stability).

Syria, with its military stranglehold over Lebanon, may be the usual suspect in the assassination. But the fundamental question - evaded in the Bush administration's drive to blame Syria - is which Syrian faction might have profited from it.

From the point of view of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, the suspicion is a public relations disaster because, if proven guilty, there's no way Damascus could get away with it unpunished. On a more street-level perspective, many Syrians are quick to point out that the preferred method for the assassination would not have been a car bombing. Syria has the best snipers in the world - something even the Israelis admit.

Last September, Hariri was called to Damascus by Assad and the head of Syrian intelligence in Lebanon, General Rostom Ghazale. Hariri had very good relations with Assad. But Damascus had imposed on the Lebanese parliament a constitutional amendment extending for three years the mandate of the current president, the pro-Syrian General Emil Lahoud. Hariri said he was quitting as premier. Damascus pleaded with him not to. Hariri then joined the opposition to Lahoud.

A few days ago, Syrian Foreign Minister Faruk al-Chareh told Terje Roed-Larsen, the special envoy in charge of applying United Nations resolution 1559 - which calls for Syrian withdrawal from Lebanon - that the resolution was "en element of tension" in the Middle East.

The official strategy in Damascus may be of a gradual military pullout from Lebanon. But there is much chatter in diplomatic circles and over the Internet that a serious internal power struggle is going on. Hardline military/security service factions, undermining Assad, might in this case have been responsible for the assassination. Assad would never have authorized a target killing with disastrous consequences for Syrian national interests.

What remains is the evidence of Baghdad in Beirut. Asia Times Online has been repeatedly told by sources in Baghdad close to the Sunni Iraqi resistance, as well as by Shi'ite sources in Najaf, that the paramount response of both Sunni and Shi'ite clerics to the wave of "mysterious" car bombings in Iraq has been to call for no revenge. The iron-clad certainty, on both sides, is that these have been perpetrated not by "terrorists" as the US claims, but rather by Israeli black ops or Central Intelligence Agency-connected American mercenaries, with the intent of fueling sectarian tensions and advancing the prospect of civil war. Now if only someone would come up with a Beirut smoking gun.

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China Gets Tough Marks in U.S. Rights Report
By Paul Eckert, Asia Correspondent
Mon Feb 28, 3:26 PM ET

WASHINGTON - China used the global war against terrorism to crack down on peaceful opponents of its rule in Muslim Xinjiang and committed persistent human rights abuses in 2004, the State Department said Monday.

China and its neighbors North Korea and Myanmar were the three Asian states highlighted in the annual report of rights records in 196 countries in the past year.

Although incomes and personal freedom expanded rapidly in China, "the government's human rights record remained poor, and the government continued to commit numerous and serious abuses," said the report.

"Many who openly expressed dissenting political views were harassed, detained, or imprisoned, particularly in a campaign late in the year against writers, religious activists, dissidents, and petitioners," it said.

Among the abuses were mistreatment of prisoners, arbitrary arrest and incommunicado detention. [...]

Comment: Mistreatment of prisoners, arbitrary arrest, and incommunicado detention... Sounds like a report on US actions in the war on terror. See yesterday's Signs page for details.

Meanwhile, the UN released its own report on poverty...

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Abbas: No sign Syria behind bombing

London, March 1 - Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said on Tuesday he had no evidence Syria was behind Tel Aviv bombing.

"We have no indication and no information pointing towards the Syrians and we cannot have a judgement based on no evidence," Abbas told BBC radio in London.

Israel has pointed the finger for Friday's attack on a Tel Aviv nightclub, which killed five people, at Damascus.

It alleges Syrian-based leaders of the Palestinian group Islamic Jihad ordered the bombing and, since it hosts their leaders, the Syrian government shares responsibility.

Comment: The Palestinian President can make as many statements as he likes as to the overwhelming lack of evidence implicating Syria in the Tel Aviv bombing. However, since neither he nor his organization have a virtual monopoly on western media outlets like another country in the region, it is certain that moderate opinions like his are drowned out in a sea of anti-Syrian rhetoric and scapegoating.

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US keeps pressure on Syria and Iran
Wednesday 02 March 2005, 11:05 Makka Time, 8:05 GMT  
Aljazeera Agencies

The US is keeping up its feud with Syria and Iran , blasting their governments as repressive and their human rights records as fraught with abuses.

But the US also faced criticism by a human rights group.
The US State Department's annual report on human rights in 2004 provided the latest forum for US criticism of the two Middle East countries that have come into Washington's sights over a number of issues.
The US administration, which has turned up the heat on Damascus since the 14 February assassination of former Lebanese prime minister Rafiq al-Hariri in Beirut, on Monday labelled Syria 's rights performance as poor.
It said the government had barred organised political opposition and been responsible for "continuing serious abuses", including torture, arbitrary arrests and prolonged detention without trial.
But Amnesty International thinks America should deal with its own human rights violations first.

Nicole Choueiry, Amnesty's spokeswoman for the Middle East and North Africa, told "Human rights abuses in Iran and Syria are not a new thing.
"We have been reporting on them for the past 10-20 years, but for the past few years we have also been reporting on human rights violations by the United States .
"We have been condemning the US for its systematic abuse in Abu Ghraib, in Afghanistan and in Iraq . The US needs to look at its own records before it condemns others. Amnesty International condemns the human rights violations of all three countries." [...]

Comment: In it's usual hypocritical style, the United States accuses other countries of human rights violations that it has excelled at and perfected in places like Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay.

Add to that the recent case of Canadian citizen Maher Arar who was apprehended by American authorities in 2003 and shipped to Syria to be beaten and tortured outside of U.S. jurisdiction, for no other crime than he was an acquaintance of a terrorism suspect's brother.

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Rice turns up the heat on Syria

"When you think about what Syria is doing in Lebanon - you have Lebanese in the streets telling the Syrians to go home so that Lebanon can control its own future," [Rice] said.

She said the US would be applying pressure to Syria to withdraw both its military troops and security services from Lebanon. [...]

Ms Rice - speaking after talks in London aimed to show world support for the Palestinian Authority - called for Lebanon to be free from "contaminating influences".

She said there was "a long list of concerns about a Syria that is standing in the way of Lebanese, Iraqis, Palestinians and others in their aspirations for a better world".

"The territory of Syria [is] being used to support an insurgency in Iraq, that is clearly standing in the way of the Iraqi people, who voted overwhelmingly for that better life [...] and in the Palestinian Territories you have Syria continuing to support Palestinian rejectionist groups."

Comment: Excuuuuuuse-me? Condi is lecturing the Syrians about having 14,000 troops in Lebanon when the US has 140,000 in Iraq? And those Iraqi people who voted "for that better life", does that "better life" include getting rid of the occupation force currently turning their country into rubble, because make no mistake, that is what the majority of Iraqis who voted thought they were voting for.

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U.S. official implicates Syrian-based group in Tel Aviv attack

'Firm evidence' cited on Palestinian Islamic Jihad's alleged role
From John King CNN
Wednesday, March 2, 2005

WASHINGTON -- The United States has "firm evidence" that leaders of the Syrian-based Palestinian Islamic Jihad authorized and were "actively involved in planning" Friday's suicide bombing in Israel, a Bush administration official said Tuesday.

The conclusion is likely to add to the pressure the White House already is placing on Syria because of what it considers that country's interference in Lebanon and Iraq.

A U.S. official in Washington said that Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was addressing the new information in London, where she was attending a conference on ways to help the Palestinian Authority.

At that conference, Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas condemned Friday's bombing outside a Tel Aviv beachfront nightclub, which killed five people and injured at least 65 just three weeks into a fragile cease-fire.

"We condemn this action and repeat that the extremist forces are still intent to destroy any efforts toward peace," Abbas said.

Later, he called the bombers "saboteurs of peace" and promised to bring them to justice.

In Washington, the Bush administration official, reading from an internal administration communication, said the United States obtained "firm evidence that the bombing on the 25th of February was not only authorized by Palestinian Islamic Jihad leaders in Damascus but that PIJ leaders also were actively involved in planning."

The official declined to describe the evidence, saying only that it was based on "U.S. intelligence."

Nor would the official say whether the administration had or was planning to share the information with the government of Syria; the White House has repeatedly accused Syria of allowing terrorist organizations to operate within its borders.

The new conclusion comes as the Bush White House already is demanding that Syria immediately pull its troops and intelligence services from Lebanon and allow free and fair elections -- and complaining that Syria has allowed supporters of the Iraqi insurgency to operate and run supply lines within Syria. [...]

After the bombing, Sharon spoke by phone with Rice and told her that "without active steps by the Palestinians, there will be no transition towards implementing the first stage of the road map," according to a statement from his office. [...]

An unnamed but reliable Islamic Jihad source told CNN over the weekend that the group's leadership in Damascus and Beirut had taken responsibility for the attack.

However, Islamic Jihad members in the Palestinian territories denied any involvement in the bombing, which authorities said was detonated by a 22-year-old university student. [...]

Comment: A reader at commented:

"Okay, I know we lied about Iraq, but you can really really really really really really really really really really really really really really really really really really trust us this time. See, the bomber's cousin's girlfriend's hairdresser's accountant's brother once rode in a taxicab driven by the sister's lawyer's secretary's uncle's brother, who mops the floors at the McDonald's in SYRIA. And THAT proves there is a connection. Can we bomb now? Can we? Huh? Huh? Huh? Huh?"

The bottom line is that the burden of proof is on Israel and the US Government to prove that they claim. Their words are utterly worthless. After all the lies told to date, who but a fool would take anything these people say at face value.

The mendacity of the Bush administration has not only dishonored the United States, it has delegitimized the government as a whole."

Which says it all!

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Path to Palestinian state clear: Blair
Last Updated Tue, 01 Mar 2005 22:28:56 EST
CBC News
LONDON - An international conference on Palestinian reforms has produced a "clear script" for the creation of a future Palestinian state, British Prime Minister Tony Blair said Tuesday.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas with Britain's Prime Minister Tony Blair before their talks in London Monday. (AP photo)

Blair, who hosted the meeting, made the comments during a news conference with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas following the one-day conference in London.

Widely seen as a gesture of support for Abbas, it was also attended by United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan and U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

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Israel warns of stormy future
By Hazel Ward in Jerusalem
02 mar 05
ISRAEL has warned Mahmud Abbas of a bleak future unless he crushes militants, as the Palestinian leader basks in global support for a raft of reforms set to create a viable Palestinian state.

"If the Palestinian Authority will not start acting against the terrorists, the future will be very bleak for Abu Mazen (Mr Abbas)," a top aide to Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon said.

Five Israelis were killed in a suicide bombing in Tel Aviv last Friday, seriously denting mutual efforts to observe calm since Mr Abbas and Mr Sharon declared an end to hostilities at a Middle East summit early last month.

"If these organisations feel they can get away with things like this now, they will resist him even more in the future," the official said..

Israel delivered its ominous warning as Mr Abbas was set to hold talks with top EU officials in Brussels, with welcome international credibility tucked under his arm, after unveiling an ambitious reform program in London.

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Police Believe Tel Aviv Blast Not Palestinian Attack
Tue Mar 1, 3:45 PM ET

JERUSALEM - Police said they believe a blast that shook Tel Aviv on Tuesday was not a Palestinian attack.

"It looks like it was a criminal incident," police spokesman Gil Kleiman said. "A motorcycle drew up and threw something and we have one seriously wounded person."

Israel Radio reported that a hand grenade was thrown at an ice cream stand in an attempt to kill an underworld figure, who it did not identify.

The Magen David Adom ambulance service said a 50-year-old man was critically injured in the attack, which occurred four days after a Palestinian suicide bombing killed five Israelis outside a Tel Aviv nightclub.

The suicide bombing undermined a ceasefire Israeli and Palestinian leaders declared at a summit in Egypt on Feb. 8.

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'We are living in a state of constant fear'

Ghaith Abdul-Ahad investigates
Wednesday March 2, 2005
The Guardian

As the violence in Iraq continues, the number of people traumatised by the conflict grows. Yet little or no psychiatric treatment is available to them - and what there is can be terrifyingly crude. [...]

Iraqis these days like to look back and tell each other stories of the good old days when everyone was happy and people weren't at each other's throats over every issue. Clearly the memory is a rosy one, but there is no doubt that depression and psychiatric illness are on the increase in today's Iraq. The worsening security situation has led to more and more people with serious mental health problems, though the withdrawal of the UN and international aid agencies means information about the scale of the problem is elusive; both the International Red Cross and Médecins Sans Frontières say they have no data on the psychiatric effects of the war and its aftermath on Iraq's population. (A 1999 report by MSF into psychological damage in Sierra Leone after a period of intense violence found that 99% of respondents showed levels of disturbance equivalent to severe post-traumatic stress in Europe.)

With limited availability of medicines and counselling therapies, some doctors are increasingly relying on electroconvulsive therapy, or ECT, to treat Iraq's mentally ill. This involves passing an electric current through the brain to induce a fit and in the UK is used, under general anaesthetic, only to treat severe depression and psychiatric illness, and then only after other treatments have failed. The irony is that in Iraqi cities, with their intermittent electricity supplies, even this therapy is not always available.

"So Fatima, tell me what's wrong?" asks the doctor in a fatherly manner. Her sister answers on her behalf. "She is not sleeping very well. She speaks harshly to everyone. She remembers old quarrels and picks fights with everyone." Fatima is looking at the floor.

"My daughter," asks the doctor, "do you feel that people are talking about you? Every time you go to bed do you hear someone whispering in your ears?"

"Yes," says the sister. "She won't have any food cooked in the house, she says we are trying to poison her." Fatima is still looking at the floor.

The doctor starts writing something in a white notepad and says: "She is suffering from an acute depression." He looks at Fatima again. "Fatima, my daughter, do you tell yourself that maybe if I die things will get better?"

Still looking at the floor, she speaks for the first time: "Yes, but then I look at my kids and say no."

"Doctor, every time the door is knocked, she starts screaming and fighting," adds her sister

"Why is that my dear?" asks the doctor in his soft voice.

"It is all these things around us," says Fatima. "The Americans, the booby-traps. No security, I can't let the kids go play outside because of car bombs and fighting." She raises her head for the first time, looks at the doctor and says: "Doctor, you are a learned man. Why can't you stop these car bombs and explosions?"

The doctor giggles and looks at the ceiling, raising his palms. "But how can I? I am like you, scared of these things."

Ibn al-Rushud is Iraq's psychiatric hospital, built in the late 70s with oil-boom money. The hospital, a white concrete modernist structure with long slit windows, is squeezed into a cul-de-sac with a Presbyterian church.

Dr Hashim Zaini, the hospital's director, is bald, spectacled, slightly eccentric, and clearly a little despairing. "We have 74 beds and two doctors," he says. "We receive 250 to 300 patients a day and we are supposed to serve a nation of 25 million people." He is followed by half a dozen people as he walks to inspect the wards - patients looking for more tranquillizers, a contractor who's here to fix the hospital's generator, a couple of employees asking for leave. They follow him into his office as he continues to sign papers and write prescriptions pushed under his nose by colleagues.

In a conservative society with strict moral codes, visiting a shrink or having any psychiatric consultation is anathema. Having a mentally disturbed person in a household can mark an entire family as damaged, prompting gossip to spread rapidly through extended family networks. People with psychiatric illnesses such as depression or acute anxieties will often be told to read the Qur'an or pray more, or will be threatened by a husband, father or family members. "Psychiatric consultation is so stigmatised here, it is only when the family cannot tolerate the patient any more that he will be brought here," says Zaini. "This is why it will take a long time to figure out the real impact of violence and war on the people."

But according to Zaini and other experts, it is children who are experiencing most acutely the impact of Iraq's descent into violence. "We are witnessing a gradual change in the psychology of the children - they are living in a state of constant fear. When the teacher comes every few days and tells the children, 'Don't come to school tomorrow, there is a terrorist threat,' what do you think will happen to those kids? This is why the best business in town is the market for toy guns.

He would love it, he says, to be able to spend more time listening to his patients and forming a proper diagnosis, instead of turning to electric therapies after five minutes' consultation. "But for us Iraqis, tired and impatient, and especially for the families who want to see a direct result, we can't stop using ECT. For them it is an effective way to calm down the patient, and it is a speedy fix."

And so back in the darkened surgery in Hafid al-Qadhi, the doctor calls to his nurse, "Mustafa, prepare for an ECT." The nurse goes outside, and after a few minutes the muffled roar of a generator comes from the balcony. A faint current of electricity, enough to light only a few bulbs, flickers into life. The nurse comes back and opens a door leading to a small adjacent room smelling of burning plastic. "Doctor, I don't want to go through this again," says a visibly agitated Fatima. "But you want to get well, right?" he says, leading her to the other room as her sister holds her firmly.

They lay her on the leather bench, and take a metal headset from where it has been soaking in an aluminium bowl filled with water. Two wires lead from the headset to a brown wooden box. The doctor switches a plug on the wooden box. Her eyes close tightly as she starts to fit, shaking and trembling. Her sister holds her feet; the nurse puts his thumb under her chin to stop her from biting her tongue.

Back in the room and behind his desk as Fatima lies unconscious next door, the doctor is inspecting the white card of another patient. "The conditions in the surrounding environment, the fear, the anxieties of war and violence and the deteriorating security situation - all work as a pressure factor, that keep chipping away people's resistance."

He opens the door to let in the next patient. "Of course, some people are already neurotic and have a low threshold of tolerance. People like Fatima, who break faster than others."

Comment: The scars on the people of Iraq will be permanent, much like the scars on the people of Palestine. Such is the freedom brought to them by the occupation of Bush and the neocons. But, again, the perpetrators of this death and destruction don't care about the people, for they are "only Arabs", and according to Jewish custom, they are less than human and can be killed with impunity. The racism of the Christian whites says essentially the same thing, that people of colour are savages who need to be civilised at the barrel of a gun, integrated into "civilisation".

Therefore the world looks on and does nothing, be it the Europeans, the Chinese, the other Arab countries. Deals are done behind closed doors with the Americans allowing Putin to crush Chechnya if Putin allows Bush to invade Afghanistan and Iraq. Quid pro quo. It is never a question of morality, only of business. "Does it further the interests of my country?", not "Is this right or wrong?"

Everyone thinks they are better than their neighbor, as individuals, as peoples, and this thought infects their thinking from their relationships with others to how they view the news each night. Nationality, religion, culture, choice of music and clothing, everything, including the smallest difference, can become a wall between people, a difference that becomes the basis of a value judgment rather than simply an expression of the wonderful and vast variety of life and the force of Creation.

We are herded into pens in every aspect of our lives; we are categorised, pigeonholed, pre-judged and then judged again after the fact, and then we turn around and do it to others.

How, though, to stop it? Judgments about others often come from an insecurity within ourselves. We seek to crush the nagging doubt about ourselves by turning the energy around and crushing someone else. How to accept that self-doubt and use it to one's advantage -- and by that we do not mean to get an advantage over another, but rather to use it to better understand oneself by understanding the origin of that doubt within. The first step is to recognise it. As the thought or feeling arises, recognise it. See it and feel it as it emerges. Admit to it. Watch it. See how it behaves, how it affects you physically and emotionally, how does it change the workings of your thoughts. With practice, one can separate oneself from the feeling and begin to see it objectively, and with that, one can perhaps trace it back and understand what event in your life might have been the seed. A comment or criticism from one of your parents? A teacher? A spouse? And each time a part of oneself is understood in this way, one takes another step in self-mastery, and becomes stronger to confront the next layer of the onion, the next program.

When one understands this process, one comes to a better understanding of why this world is as it is and why it can not be other. We all are beset with the same programs. To change the world, every individual on the planet would have to undergo the same process. All six billion people. It is not a process that can be imposed from above, a top-down solution as part of the political program of a party. It must come from within, from the seed for truth that we carry within us. Add to the pot the possibility that a great number of people on the planet might not even have the seed, and the actual situation on the planet becomes even bleaker.

Can one imagine George W. Bush engaged in introspection where he is willing to put his own perceptions into question? Perhaps at the moment just before he found Jesus, there was a possibility, at the moment he hit bottom. But by replacing one set of certitudes with another rather than realising that the true quest for knowledge leads us to probabilities and an open future where each choice we make can be a butterfly wing set flapping, he chose a closed future and a fixed set of ideas that he applies to any and all situations.

Another possibility is that if he is in fact a psychopath, then he never had a choice. Any reality other than that of predator and prey was closed to him. Then again, he may simply be an organic portal, in many ways an empty shell into which is downloaded a new program as needed as he fulfills his esoteric function. There may in a certain sense no one home, no one there to be able to feel the suffering of another because the only suffering he feels is that of losing his meal, his source of supply of energy. He cannot feel another's suffering because he himself is incapable of feeling.

We have all come across people like that in our lives, people who seem unable to learn and to grow. They may be pleasant enough, friendly, innocuous, but their world begins and ends with their own interests and their own needs.

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US state department slams Iraqi government's human rights record
Julian Borger in Washington
Wednesday March 2, 2005
The Guardian

The US state department has criticised the Iraqi government for serious human rights abuses including extra-judicial killings, torture, rape and illegal detentions, with some of the worst violations committed in Basra. [...]

The state department looked into reports of "arbitrary deprivation of life" focusing on Basra, the city in southern Iraq garrisoned by British troops.

It cited police reports alleging that officers from an Iraqi intelligence internal affairs unit killed 10 Ba'ath party members and a mother and daughter accused of prostitution.

"The Basra chief of intelligence was removed from his position as a result of the accusations; however, he retained command of the internal affairs unit," the state department said.

"Other instances reflected arbitrary actions by government agents. For example, on October 16, Baghdad police arrested, interrogated and killed 12 kidnappers of three police officers."

The report confirmed earlier findings by the independent group Human Rights Watch that "torture and ill treatment of detainees by police was commonplace". It also mentioned abuses by the Iraqi national guard, including the looting and razing of houses in Falluja and southern Baghdad, and the beating of a doctor in Baghdad for refusing to treat a wounded guardsman ahead of more seriously injured civilians.

The state department also reported a backlog of hundreds of cases in the Iraqi prison system, accusing guards of "abuse and torture of detainees and prisoners, including women".

Only 10 cases had been investigated by the end of last year. [...]

Comment: Irony anyone? Does it matter that the Iraqi government that is committing all of these abuses was established, and to a large extent is still run, by the same US government that is issuing this report?

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Report Criticizes Interim Iraq Government
Tue Mar 1, 8:52 AM ET

WASHINGTON - Serious human rights abuses occurred under the interim Iraqi government installed by the United States after the overthrow of Saddam Hussein, including torture, illegal detention by police and forced confessions, according to a State Department report.

Though the interim government did reverse "a long legacy of serious human rights abuses" under Saddam, the report said that "corruption at all levels of government remained a problem" during the period and Iraqis continued to be victimized by police, courts and others in authority.

Iraqi officials were correcting these practices, the report said. It said the January elections and continuing struggle against insurgent violence had helped "create momentum for the improvement of human rights practices."

The report, in which the State Department assesses the state of human rights around the world, said that tens of thousands of people across the world suffered last year at the hands of repressive governments, some of them - like Iraq - friendly to the United States.

Under the interim Iraq government, there were reports of local police and other government agents killing members of Saddam's Baath Party, a mother and daughter accused of prostitution and kidnappers of police officers, the State Department noted. It cited a report by Human Rights Watch that said "torture and ill treatment of detainees by police was commonplace."

The report, released Monday, did not address incidents in Iraq in which Americans were involved, such as the abuse of prisoners at Abu Ghraib. [...]

Comment: Horse hockey. The report directly addressed events in which Americans were involved, since the US is the occupying power in Iraq. The Bush administration seems to want to downplay US involvement in Iraq because the details of that involvement reveal the uncomfortable reality of the situation.

The State Department report also had some things to say about China...

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Saddam tribunal judge, lawyer killed
Last Updated Wed, 02 Mar 2005 06:09:54 EST
CBC News

BAGHDAD - An Iraqi judge and a lawyer working on the special tribunal to try Saddam Hussein were assassinated in Baghdad, as a car bomb killed six soldiers in another area of the city.

Judge Barwez Mohammed Mahmoud al-Merwani and his son, lawyer Aryan Barwez al-Merwani were shot late Tuesday outside their home in Baghdad's Azamyiah district, said the judge's other son.

The deaths were confirmed by an official with the Iraqi Special Tribunal.

The assassinations come one day after the tribunal announced it had enough evidence to put five former Baath party officials on trial.

Set up in December of 2003 to try members of the former regime for war crimes, the tribunal is expected to put Saddam on trial next year.

Car bomb kills 6

In central Baghdad, six Iraqi soldiers were killed and close to 40 injured in a car bomb blast.

Police say the bomber drove up to the gates of an Iraqi army base where army recruits often line up to apply for jobs. The base has been the target of rebel attacks several times over the last year.

The blast comes as thousands of people gathered at a medical clinic in the Iraqi city of Hillah, chanting "no to terrorism."

On Monday, at least 115 Iraqis were killed when a car bomb exploded in a crowd of police and Iraqi National Guard recruits lined up outside the clinic.

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The DIDDLY Award
Jack Hitt – March/April 2005

The Congressional Medal of Terror is awarded for uncommon vigilance and surreal valor in defense of the homeland. And the nominees are...

Rep. Curt Weldon (R-Pa.), who announced that he'd single-handedly exposed a plot by Iranian terrorists to fly hijacked Canadian airliners into a New Hampshire nuclear reactor. He was blown off by the CIA after his main source—whom Weldon himself gave the super-secret spy name "Ali"—refused to reveal his sources. "I took this straight to the top," Weldon whined, "but I did not get anywhere." After Republican colleagues joined in on ignoring him, Weldon announced he’ll reveal the plot in a book-length exposé that will "shake Washington."

Rep. Katherine Harris (the very same), who exposed a nonexistent plot by a man of Middle Eastern heritage to blow up the power grid in Carmel, Indiana—a suburb of Indianapolis. She said "a mayor" had told her about it, although Carmel's mayor said he didn't know what she was talking about. Neither did the county sheriff; neither did the FBI.

Sen. Jim Bunning (R-Ky.), who insisted on having two local police officers guard him every time he traveled in the Bluegrass State. Although Bunning was always cagey about why, one local paper reported that the "Paducah police were with him to guard against al-Qaida or other terrorist attacks." Bunning reacted with paranoia when queried about the preposterous assumption that terrorists might hunt him down in Paducah. "There may be strangers among us," he explained.

Sen. Mark Dayton (D-Minn.), who evacuated his Washington office just before the November election, citing a "top-secret intelligence report" that the nation's capital was in peril. The Department of Homeland Security issued a statement saying Dayton didn't know what he was talking about, as did the U.S. Capitol Police. No matter; Dayton closed up shop, explaining: "I do so out of extreme, but necessary, precaution to protect the lives and safety of my Senate staff and my Minnesota constituents, who might otherwise visit my office in the next few weeks."

AND THE WINNER IS...Katherine Harris, who later apologized, sorta, saying, "I regret that I had no knowledge of the sensitive nature of this situation," adding that "the story" she had shared "illustrated the need for each of us to remain alert and vigilant in fighting terrorism."

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Child Poverty on Rise in Rich Countries --UN Report
Tue Mar 1, 5:03 AM ET

GENEVA - Child poverty is on a steady rise across many of the world's richest countries and can only be tackled by targeted government efforts to raise incomes of the poorest families, a United Nations report said on Tuesday.

The report from UNICEF said that even in countries such as the United States and Britain where it is on the decline, the overall rates remain high -- while Scandinavia seemed to have the problem under control.

"No matter which of the commonly used poverty measures is applied, the situation of children is seen to have deteriorated over the last decade," said the report -- which focused on 24 of the wealthiest nations around the globe.

About 22 percent of young people under the age of 18 in the United States and 28 percent in Mexico live in poverty, but in Denmark the figure is only 2.4 percent, 2.8 in Finland and 3.4 percent in Norway, it said. [...]

But the agency's regional director in Geneva, Philip O'Brien, told a news conference that definition was relative. "The child living in poverty in the U.S. is clearly not as badly off as the child in Mexico," he said. [...]

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Russia working on 'defense-proof' nuclear missiles: minister
Tue Mar 1, 2:51 PM ET

MOSCOW - Russian Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov said Tuesday that Moscow was creating a nuclear weapon capable of thwarting any defense system in the world, Interfax news agency reported.

"There is not now and will not be any defense from such missiles," the news agency quoted Ivanov as saying.

It was not immediately clear what type of weapon Ivanov was referring to. He has however said in the past that Russia's future nuclear defenses will be based on the mobile, Topol-M rocket. [...]

Ivanov has been charged with streamlining Russia's Soviet era nuclear defenses, relying more heavily on a small range of powerful weapons as thousands of old missiles become decommissioned.

"We will not be baking rockets like cakes as we did in the Soviet era," Ivanov was quoted as saying. [...]

Analysts have suggested that Russia is developing a missile which can "zigzag" while in flight and thereby dodge anti-missile defenses.

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'News' Video Extols Gov.'s Plan
By Dan Morain
Times Staff Writer
February 28, 2005

SACRAMENTO — Using taxpayer money, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's administration has sent television stations statewide a mock news story extolling a proposal that would benefit political boosters in the business community by ending mandatory lunch breaks for many hourly workers.

The tape looks like a news report and is narrated by a former television reporter who now works for the state. But unlike an actual news report, it does not provide views critical of the proposed changes. Democrats have denounced it as propaganda. Snippets aired on as many as 18 stations earlier this month, the administration said.

The tape opens with text suggesting introductory comments to be read by a news anchor: "If approved, the changes would clear up uncertainty in the business community and create a better working environment throughout the state."

The video shows construction workers, waitresses, nurses, farmworkers and a forklift operator at their jobs, and includes interviews with a farmer and a restaurant manager. The narrator says the proposal would permit workers to "eat when they are hungry, and not when the government tells them."

Comment: That nasty government, trying to tell workers when they can eat.

Of course, the pro-business propaganda ignores the entire history of the international labour movement that shows that if such things are not put into writing through labour laws, then bosses find excuses to deny their employees even the time to eat. Unions were the reaction on the part of workers to bosses imposing inhuman working conditions. Somewhere along the way in the US, this got turned around and it became "socialist" -- and we all know what a bad word that is in the US, as it has taken on the association of meaning "anti-American" -- for employees to band together while it was fine for the employers to meet and work out common policy. The various professional lobbyists in Washington are mostly representatives of the owners of America's corporations, pushing their legislation on Congress.

We reported earlier this week on Wal-Mart's policy of closing stores or departments that get union accreditation. The anti-labour bias in the US is extremely strong. Juan Cole happens to comment upon it in the next article:

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The US, Iraq, and Trade Unions
Juan Cole
A prominent trade unionist was also assassinated, but apparently only New Zealand cares. [...]

US mainstream media appears to have behind the scenes instructions not to mention unions if at all possible (older television actors remember this instruction being explicit back in the 1960s with regard to dramas.)

Comment: If the war against the working people in the US is being stepped up in the US today, there is a reason for it. The current attack against social security is but one manifestation of it. The rulers want to crush the population so that they are in no position to fight back. This is done in various ways, from the patriot hysteria following 9/11 where everyone was tugged through their emotions to back the neocon imperial agenda, through the shop by shop anti-union activity in places like Wal-Mart.

The US population is being set up for a very nasty fall. We see it day by day across the board. Unfortunately, by the time enough people wake up to their fate and try to do something about it, it will most likely be too late.

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Bruce Gagnon
Monday, February 28, 2005
A woman called tonight that has seen our video called Arsenal of Hypocrisy: The space program and the military industrial complex. She was very moved by the part of the video that tells the story about the Nazi rocket scientists brought to the U.S. after WWII in the secret military program called Operation Paperclip. I first learned about the story when I read the book Secret Agenda by former CNN investigative reporter Linda Hunt. The book told in detail how 1,500 top Nazi scientists were smuggled into the U.S. through Boston and West Palm Beach, Florida. One hundred of them, along with 100 copies of Hitler's V-2 rocket, were brought to Huntsville, Alabama to create the U.S. space program. Wernher von Braun, the head of Hitler's team that built the V-1 and V-2 rockets was made the first director of NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville.

In Germany the Nazis had a concentration camp called Dora where 40,000 Jews, French resistance fighters, homosexuals, communists and other prisoners of war (including a black American GI) were brought to build the V-1 and V-2 inside a mountain tunnel called Mittelwerk. By the time the slaves were liberated by the allies, over 25,000 had perished at the hands of the Nazi rocketeers.

Hitler's military liason to von Braun's rocket team was Maj. Gen. Walter Dornberger. Several times Dornberger and von Braun met with Hitler requesting more money and more slaves so they could step up the rocket production effort. Hitler was anxious to use the rockets to terrorize the cities of London, Paris and Brussels toward the end of the war as the Nazi army began to lose. Dornberger and von Braun showed Hitler moving pictures of the V-2 rocket launches to prove they were making significant progress.

Dornberger came to the U.S. along with von Braun's rocket team during Operation Paperclip. According to author Jack Manno in his book Arming the Heavens: The Hidden Military Agenda for Space, 1945-1995, Dornberger was appointed as a vice-president at Bell Aviation Corporation and went on to serve on the first military oversight committee that ensured that NASA was controlled by the Pentagon from the first days. It was Dornberger who first came up with the idea of "missile defense" as an offensive program that would have nuclear powered satellites orbiting the planet and able to hit targets on Earth.

Kurt Debus, the chief of V-2 launch operations in Hitler's Germany, later became Chief of Operations for NASA at Cape Canaveral. When tourists converge on the Kennedy Space Center they will pass by a portrait of the former German SS member that hangs in the entrance in honor of Debus's service as the center's first director.

In a recent book called The Hunt for Zero Point, respected military journalist Nick Cook talks much about the "black" (the Pentagon's secret) budget. For 15 years Cook has been a defense and aerospace writer for Jane's Defence Weekly, which some consider the bible of the international weapons community. Cook spent the last 10 years researching secret military programs in the U.S. and believes that over $20 billion a year is spent on these programs outside the purview of Congress. Cook states, "It (black programs) has a vast and sprawling architecture funded by tens of billion of classified dollars every year. The height of its powers was probably in the Reagan era. But it has not stopped since then. In fact, under the Bush administration it is having something of a resurgence. Stealth technology is a primary example...research into anti-gravity technology...has been going on for quite some time."

Cook traces the roots of the U.S.'s secret programs back to the Nazi scientists brought to the U.S. after WW II in Operation Paperclip. He states, "We know the size and scope of Operation Paperclip, which was huge. And we know that the U.S. operates a very deeply secret defense architecture for secret weapons is highly compartmentalized...and one of the things that's intrigued me over the years is, How did they develop it? What model did they base it on? It is remarkably similar to the system that was operated by the Germans - specifically the SS - for their top-secret weapons programs."

"What I do mean," says Cook, "is that if you follow the trail of Nazi scientists and engineers who were recruited by America at the end of the second world war, the unfortunate corollary is that by taking on the science, you take on - unwittingly - some of the ideology...What do you lose along the way?"

Could this be what former President Dwight Eisenhower was talking about just a few years later when in 1961 he warned the American people to "beware" of the power of the military industrial complex? Could Eisenhower's prophetic warning been that an ideological contamination had come from America's embracing of the Nazi operatives?

The woman who called me tonight recently wrote a letter to the editor telling her community the story about the Nazi's creating the U.S. space program. The responses called her crazy. Even her own son, a local fire fighter, was outraged with her over the letter and told her that she should support George W. Bush or not talk politics to him ever again. She called me to ask for more evidence which I gladly will provide her.

I was impressed by this woman's great courage to step out and to tell a story that America wants to bury with the rest of our dark past. But the woman was right, this story informs the present -- maybe more than that -- guides and directs the present. This is a story that must rise from the dead if we are to halt U.S. plans for global empire. We must face our collective national demons. Let the telling begin.

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Grounded: Millionaire John Gilmore stays close to home while making a point about privacy

He's unable to travel because he refuses to present a government-approved ID
By Dennis Roddy, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Sunday, February 27, 2005

SAN FRANCISCO -- John Gilmore's splendid isolation began July 4, 2002, when, with defiance aforethought, he strolled to the Southwest Airlines counter at Oakland Airport and presented his ticket. The gate agent asked for his ID.

Gilmore asked her why.

It is the law, she said.

Gilmore asked to see the law.

Nobody could produce a copy. To date, nobody has. The regulation that mandates ID at airports is "Sensitive Security Information." The law, as it turns out, is unavailable for inspection.

What started out as a weekend trip to Washington became a crawl through the courts in search of an answer to Gilmore's question: Why?

In post 9/11 America, asking "Why?" when someone from an airline asks for identification can start some interesting arguments. Gilmore, who learned to argue on the debate team in his hometown of Bradford, McKean County, has started an argument that, should it reach its intended target, the U.S. Supreme Court, would turn the rules of national security on end, reach deep into the tug-of-war between private rights and public safety, and play havoc with the Department of Homeland Security.

At the heart of Gilmore's stubbornness is the worry about the thin line between safety and tyranny.

"Are they just basically saying we just can't travel without identity papers? If that's true, then I'd rather see us go through a real debate that says we want to introduce required identity papers in our society rather than trying to legislate it through the back door through regulations that say there's not any other way to get around," Gilmore said. "Basically what they want is a show of obedience."

As happens to the disobedient, Gilmore is grounded. He is rich -- he estimates his net worth at $30 million -- and cannot fly inside the United States. [...]

To some, Gilmore's argument is redolent of the conspiracy theories from the black helicopter crowd.

"That's the problem. How it sounds," Gilmore said. He waved his hands like some Cassandra: "They have all these secret laws! The UFOs are coming! They have guards at every airport!" Yes, he said, there is a certain odd flavor to the notion that someone shouldn't have to show ID to board a plane, but with magnetometers at the gates, guards with security wands, fortified cockpit doors and sky marshals abounding, Gilmore is asking just how much citizens are giving up when they hand their driver's licenses to a third party, in this case an airline, where it is put into a database they cannot see, to meet a law that, as it turns out, they are not allowed to read.

Gilmore will show ID for an international flight because he doesn't expect to set the rules for other nations.

"I will show a passport to travel internationally. I'm not willing to show a passport to travel in my own country," Gilmore said. "I used to laugh at countries that had internal passports. And it's happened here and people don't even seem to know about it."

The passage of John Gilmore from a bespectacled proto-nerd from Bradford, Pa., to the twice-wealthy privacy-rights pioneer of the West Coast started in his father's living room, where he first suspected authority is used simply because someone has it.

When something was found broken or spilled or some other evidence of a fractured rule surfaced, and the guilty party unknown, the elder Gilmore would summon his four children to the living room.

"He'd line us all up in the living room. Until one of us confessed, we wouldn't get to leave. Eventually one of my younger brothers started confessing to things he didn't do just so we could get out of there," Gilmore said. [...]

His own theory was that a privacy program offered by the government isn't, by nature, likely to remain private.

By 1996, Gilmore's dislike of authority was in full bloom. At San Francisco Airport, he refused to produce a driver's license for security police.

"The cop said, 'You want me to arrest you?' I said, 'I'd consider it an honor.' " They honored him with an arrest. The district attorney dropped the case.

Gilmore has epilepsy, and because of that his driver's license was suspended five years ago. He decided not to reapply because it is now easier, when asked for a photo ID, to be able to say forthrightly that he has none.

More than $1 million of his money has gone to house and feed the Electronic Frontier Foundation. On a given day, visitors can find a team of lawyers meeting with young men and women, still pale from too much time indoors, seeking counsel to protect them from the wrath of everyone from the Recording Industry Association of America, which is trying to shut down music file sharers, to federal regulators worried about the latest software for encrypting e-mail communications.

"He cares a great deal about privacy," said Lee Tien, a full-time litigator at EEF. Because privacy is one of those things that disappears without always being noticed right away, Tien and other EFF lawyers find themselves fighting regulations nobody gets excited about right away.

"Privacy discourse ends up being at one end, 'What have you got to hide?' vs. 'Mind your own business,' " Tien said.

"If John Gilmore were a country," adds his personal publicist, Bill Scannell, "his motto would be 'Let Me Alone.' "

Conscious objection

Rosa Parks did not ride that bus in Montgomery by accident. Several strategy meetings preceded the famous ride in which the founding mother of the civil rights movement boarded a bus and declined to sit in the back.

Gilmore's famous visit to two airline ticket counters in the Bay Area was charted out. He checked in with his lawyer. He kept notes. He booked a flight from Oakland, with its slightly cheaper fares, to Washington, D.C., where he planned to drop in on the offices of his member of congress, U.S. Rep. Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco, to convey his growing concern about the amount of data the government is gathering from and about its citizens.

His reason for travel, he would later say, was "to petition the government for redress." That added First Amendment issues to a Constitutional exercise that would also turn on the amendments against unreasonable search and seizure and the right to assemble and petition the government for redress of grievances.

Everything went pretty much according to expectations. That is to say, everything went to hell in a hurry.

As Gilmore tells it, he arrived at the gate two hours early, a paper ticket purchased through a travel agent in his hand. A Southwest agent asked for his ID. Gilmore, in turn, asked her if the ID requirement was an airline rule or a government rule. She didn't seem to know. Gilmore argued that if nobody could show him the law, he wasn't showing them an ID.

They reached a strange agreement for an argument about personal privacy: In lieu of showing ID, Gilmore would consent to an extra-close search, putting up with a pat-down in order to keep his personal identity to himself. He was wanded, patted down and sent along.

As Gilmore headed up the boarding ramp a security guard yanked him from line. According to court papers, a security agent named Reggie Wauls informed Gilmore he would not be flying that day.

"He said, 'I didn't let you fly because you said you had an ID and wouldn't show it,' " Gilmore said. "I asked, 'Does that mean if I'd left it at home I'd be on the plane?' He said, 'I didn't say that.' "

The Gilmore case is, if anything, about things unsaid. Gilmore -- and millions of other people -- are daily instructed to produce some manner of ID: a driver's license, a Social Security number, a phone number, date of birth. When Gilmore asked to see the rules explaining why his photo ID is necessary for airline security, his request was denied. The regulation under which the Transportation Safety Administration, an arm of the Department of Homeland Security, instructs the airlines to collect such identification is classified as "Sensitive Security Information."

When Congress passes a law, it is as often as not up to some agency to decide what that law means and how to enforce it. Usually, those regulations are available for people to examine, even challenge if they conflict with the Constitution.

This wasn't the case when Congress passed the Air Transportation Security Act of 1974. The Department of Transportation was instructed to hold close information that would "constitute an unwarranted invasion of personal privacy" or "reveal trade secrets" or "be detrimental to the safety of persons traveling in air transportation."

The Federal Aviation Administration, then a branch of the transportation department, drew up regulations that established the category now known as Sensitive Security Information.

When the responsibility for air travel safety was transferred to the newly created Transportation Safety Administration, which was in turn made a branch of the new Department of Homeland Security, the oversight for Sensitive Security Information went with it. The language in the Homeland Security Act was broadened, subtly but unmistakably, where SSI was concerned.

It could not be divulged if it would "be detrimental to the security of transportation."

"By removing any reference to persons or passengers, Congress has significantly broadened the scope of SSI authority," wrote Todd B. Tatelman, an attorney for the Congressional Research Office. Tatelman was asked by Congress last year to look at the implications of Gilmore's case.

Tatelman's report found that the broadened language essentially put a cocoon of secrecy around 16 categories of information, such as security programs, security directives, security measures, security screening information "and a general category consisting of 'other information.' "

The government has been so unyielding on disclosure that men with the name David Nelson suddenly found themselves ejected from flights. Somewhere in the system, the name came up on the newly created "No Fly" list. Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, D-Mass., found himself in the same dilemma. When baggage screeners were caught pilfering, prosecutions were dropped because a trial would require a discussion of "Sensitive Security Information."

When John Gilmore demanded proof that the airport ID rule met Constitutional muster, the government at first declined to acknowledge it even existed.

Ann Davis, a spokeswoman for TSA, tacitly acknowledged the strange rabbit hole into which Gilmore has fallen. The Department of Justice, in its first response to Gilmore's suit two years ago, declined to acknowledge whether such an instruction existed. Later, it admitted its existence. Then the government asked a judge to hold a hearing in secret and preclude Gilmore's lawyers from seeing the regulation they sought to challenge, the contents of which seem to be pretty widely known.

"It's a rubber stamp. TSA security directives are -- plural -- sensitive security information and not subject to public disclosure," Davis said.

How, then, is someone to challenge in court a law he's not allowed to see?

"I have no idea," Davis said. "If a passenger doesn't wish to show ID prior to getting a boarding pass, that's something they're going to have to take up with the air carrier. And the air carrier is required to obtain government-issued identification."

That, says Gilmore's lawyer, Jim Harrison, is the enigma of the case: "It's about the ability of the citizens of this country to be able to move about the country, to move about freely, without being subject to laws they can't see." [...]

The elegance of Gilmore's thinking is that knowing someone's ID does not prevent the person from committing a terrorist act. The 9/11 hijackers had driver's licenses. Knowing someone's identity, as Gilmore argues it, adds less to a security than it takes away from a traveler's protection from authority that might oppress simply because it can.

"It's just rebellion against oppression," Klein said. "Part of it is this sense of 'Why do I have to follow all these rules when they don't make any sense?' " [...]

On a bus running through San Francisco to Haight-Ashbury, a multimillionaire sat alone in a seat next to a woman who appeared to be homeless. Neither knew who the other one was. All John Gilmore had to show to get on board was a $1.25 fare. That's how he likes it.

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One in Four Americans Would Use Nukes Against Terrorists, Gallup Finds
By Greg Mitchell
Editor & Publisher
March 01, 2005 12:00 PM ET

NEW YORK - More than one in four Americans would go so far as to utilize nuclear bombs if need be in the fight against terrorism, according to a national survey reported today by The Gallup Organization.

Gallup asked Americans whether they would be willing or not willing "to have the U.S. government do each of the following" and then listed an array of options.

For example, "assassinate known terrorists" drew the support of 65% of all adults. "Torture known terrorists if they know details about future terrorist attacks in the U.S." won the backing of 39%.

Finally, the option of using "nuclear weapons to attack terrorist facilities" drew the support of 27% of adults, with 72% opposing, which would shatter the taboo on using these weapons militarily since the attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Experts agree that the power of today's weapons, their range of damage and the peril of drifting radioactive fallout far exceeds the bombs used against Japan. That support has declined 7% since 2001, however.

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Byrd compares Republicans to Hitler

Former Klansman decries attempts to approve judicial nominees
March 2, 2005

WASHINGTON – In denouncing Republican efforts to get President Bush's judicial nominees to the floor of the Senate for an up-or-down vote, Sen. Robert Byrd, D-W.Va., compared Republican tactics to Adolph Hitler's use of power in Nazi Germany.

Byrd, a former member of the Ku Klux Klan, said that if the GOP were to succeed in preventing Democratic filibusters of Bush's nominees, the move would "incinerate" the rights of all senators.

As many as 10 of Bush's nominees face the threat of filibuster, including William Myers, former lead counsel at the Interior Department who is up for a seat on the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.

Myers has majority support in the Senate, but lacks the 60 votes needed to shatter a filibuster. To get past that barrier, Republicans would like to use their majority power to change the rules.

Byrd compared the idea to Hitler's abuse of power.

"Hitler never abandoned the cloak of legality. He recognized the enormous psychological value of having the law on his side," he said.

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Support Rep. Conyers Call for Bush Impeachment Inquiry
Don DeBar, WBAI
March 1, 2005

Calling Bush "the most impeachable President in US history," former
presidential candidate Ralph Nader called for nationwide support of Rep. John Conyers effort to open an impeachment inquiry into the "lies and deceptions" which led to the invasion of Iraq. [...]

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Realigning the global power game
By Gwynne Dyer
PRESIDENT George W. Bush leaves the flourishing metropolis of Mainz tomorrow evening, after meeting with German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, and flies to Bratislava for a dinner with Russia’s President Vladimir Putin. (Mainz? Bratislava? Not Berlin and Moscow? Is Mr Bush avoiding European crowds?) The Russian and American presidents will doubtless maintain a polite facade, but it’s unlikely that Bush will emerge from this meeting to declare once again that "Pootie-Poot" is his soulmate.

The Russian-American relationship is not thriving, and the proof of it is the fact that the United States granted political asylum a month ago to Alyona Morozova, a Russian citizen who claims that her life is in danger because of her role in investigating a series of “terrorist” bombing attacks that killed 246 Russians in September 1999. The chief suspect in the bombings, according to her, is Vladimir Putin.

Three apartment blocks in Russian cities were destroyed by huge bombs that month, including one that left Alyona Morozova’s mother and boyfriend dead under the rubble. There had been peace between Russia and the breakaway republic of Chechnya since 1996, and no Chechen claimed responsibility for the bombings, but then-prime minister Vladimir Putin immediately blamed the atrocities on the Chechens and launched a second war against them that continues to this day.

Boris Yeltsin was in the last year of his presidency then, and he was seeking a way to retire without facing prosecution for the fortunes he and his cronies had amassed in their years of power. Vladimir Putin, former head of the FSB secret police, had recently been appointed prime minister by Yeltsin but was still largely unknown to the Russian public.

The deal was that Yeltsin would pass the presidency to Putin at the end of the year, and Putin would then grant Yeltsin an amnesty for all crimes committed while he was in office. But there was still the tedious business of an election to get through, and Russians who scarcely knew Putin’s name had to be persuaded to vote for him on short notice. How to boost his profile as Saviour of the Nation? Well, a war, obviously.

Alyona Morozova (and many others) claim that Putin’s old friends at the FSB carried out the apartment bombings themselves, in order to give their man a pretext to declare war on Chechnya and make himself a national hero in time for the presidential elections. It would be just one more unfounded conspiracy theory – except that only days after the big Moscow bomb, a resident at a similar apartment building in the city of Ryazan spotted three people acting suspiciously and called the local police.

The police founds sacks in the cellar that they initially said contained hexogen, the explosive used in the other bombings, together with a timer set for 5.30 am. They also discovered that the three people who had planted the explosives were actually FSB agents. Nikolai Patrushev, the head of the FSB, insisted that the sacks contained only sugar and that the whole thing was a training exercise, and the local police fell silent, but there was no proper investigation.
Alyona Morozova fears the Russian government’s wrath because a number of other people who have tried to investigate the incident have been murdered or jailed on trumped-up charges of “espionage”. So she asked for political asylum in the United States: nothing surprising in that. It’s much more surprising that the US government actually granted her asylum, because it is implicitly acknowledging the possibility that President Vladimir Putin, in addition to being a mass murderer of Chechens, may also be a mass murderer of Russians.

You do not do this to countries you expect to be friends with. It may be the right thing to do, in moral terms, but that has not been a significant constraint on US policy towards trusted allies like Algeria, Egypt and Turkmenistan. Something else is going on here.

Just straws in the wind, but count them. Russia has refused to cut its support for Iran’s nuclear power projects despite all of Washington’s blandishments. Moscow is on the brink of a surface-to-air missile deal with Syria that would give that country the ability to challenge Israeli and even American overflights. The European Union is about to end its embargo on arms sales to China. The EU will go ahead with its Galileo satellite geo-positioning system, which can greatly improve missile accuracy, despite US protests that the existing American system (with fuzzed data for non-US military customers) is good enough for everybody. And it will sell the Galileo data to the Chinese.

There is a realignment going on, and it isn’t about ideology. If Russia were a fully democratic country, its foreign ministry would still be worried by US adventurism in the Middle East. If China were a democracy, it would probably be more active in opposing the American military presence in East Asia. And France and Germany, which are genuine democracies, increasingly see the US as a threat – not to them directly, but to global stability.

This change of attitude is not yet an accomplished fact, and a change of course in Washington could still abort the trend. But most of the world’s other major powers are starting to see the United States as a rogue state, and gradually they are responding to that perception. Nothing George W. Bush will say or do on this European trip is likely to change their minds.

Comment: It seems that the leaders of every country have the goods on the leaders of every other country. By mutual agreement, they allow each other to get away with murder, quite literally. But these incremental deals lead over time to a shift in the balance of power, at which moments a country with much to lose is willing to break the embargo and use its goods to blackmail another. Was this what Bush was doing to Putin during his meeting? Was this why Putin was willing to accept a very public humiliation at the press conference following?

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Peers line up to condemn 'terrifying' house arrest plan
By Ben Russell, Political Correspondent
The Independent
02 March 2005

Peers bitterly criticised the Government's proposals for house arrest yesterday as a string of former judges and law lords declared that planned anti-terror laws undermined Britain's historic legal rights.

Peers lined up to attack the Prevention of Terrorism Bill as they started four days of debate on it, warning that it was "unconstitutional" and attacked fundamental protection for citizens by allowing ministers to hold or tag people without trial.

But the Conservatives last night said they were prepared to drop opposition to the Bill in return for a "sunset clause" forcing ministers to draw up fresh proposals in the autumn. [...]

Civil rights campaigners believe the deal could be a way of defusing pre-election tension over the issue. A spokesman for Liberty said: "Of course we want this terrifying Bill to be defeated once and for all. However, Parliament should not have a gun to its head and be forced into a rushed pre-election sham of a debate about such grave issues."

The Bishop of Worcester, the Rt Rev Peter Selby, condemned the legislation as representing a "victory for terrorists", declaring that it threatened the "spirit" of British life.

The Liberal Democrat Lord Goodhart said: "It is entirely wrong that the Home Secretary, or indeed the courts, should have power to restrict liberty in ways that are not specifically authorised by Parliament. [...]

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Afghan drug production reported rising

Production of opium poppies rose to 4200 tonnes in 2004

Wednesday 02 March 2005, 10:57 Makka Time, 7:57 GMT

Opium poppy cultivation in Afghanistan has soared to near-record levels in 2004, posing a serious threat to the country's stability, the International Narcotics Control Board (INCB) says.

Production of opium poppies rose from 3200 tonnes in 2003 to 4200 tonnes last year, approaching levels last seen when the Taliban was in power, INCB president Hamid Ghodse said on the release of the agency's annual report on Wednesday.

"This total comes close to the record of 4600 tonnes registered in 1999 under the Taliban regime," he added, warning that the new increase put Afghanistan "on the road to becoming a major drug-trafficking state".

Afghanistan is already the world's top producer of poppy used to make opium.

Comment: Ah, the benefits of freedom and democracy and an American puppet government!

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U.S. Military Presence near Venezuela Raises Concerns
Tuesday, Mar 01, 2005
By: Cleto Sojo -

Caracas, Venezuela. Mar 1 ( Venezuela’s Armed Forces are closely watching the unannounced presence of U.S. military vessels near the Caribbean island of Curacao, which was detected early Monday.

The announcement was made early Monday by Venezuelan Navy commander Armando Laguna, during an interview with state TV channel Venezolana de Television. Laguna said that the Venezuelan Navy detected several foreign vessels 75 kilometers northeast of the Paraguaná Peninsula in western Venezuela.

According to Laguna, the presence of U.S. military ships near Venezuela is part of their "routine maneuvers", and told people not to be alarmed. However, Laguna assured that the United States did not announce the presence "as they traditionally have been doing it."

"The situation is within normal and legal parameters. However, these operations were not notified to our government. We detected them and took our precautions to determine their intentions, but they are always performing maneuvers [exercises] in the Minor Antilles," he said.

Laguna further assured that the presence of U.S. Marines, fighter planes, and amphibian boats, "should not be a matter of much preoccupation as they are part of routine operations of that country in the area."

The United States is also conducting military exercises in the Caribbean island of Trujillo, along with Belize, Nicaragua, Guatemala, and Honduras, according to the Prensa Latina news agency.

In spite of Laguna's efforts to assure Venezuelans that the U.S. presence should not be a matter of concern, a wave of rumors of an “imminent U.S. invasion” started circulating through several cities. Rumors of a new coup, calls to buy food, to "prepare to fight", and questions about President Hugo Chavez's whereabouts, circulated widely via cell phone text messages and email.

President Chavez is expected travel to Montevideo, Uruguay, to attend the inauguration of Uruguay's new leftist President Tabare Vasquez. No cancellation of the trip had been announced as of early Tuesday.

National Assembly Deputy William Lara, one of the leaders of President Chavez's MVR party, told reporters that the U.S. presence near Venezuelan territory is part of "a plan to intimidate and provoke by the U.S." prior to the upcoming elections of the Secretary General of the Organization of American States.

Some opposition leaders have expressed in the past their desire for a U.S. military intervention in Venezuela in order to restore democratic rule, which they accuse Chavez of undermining, in spite of his numerous electoral victories. The waving of U.S. flags and signs calling for help from the U.S., are common at anti-Chavez demonstrations.

Tensions between the United States and Venezuela have increased recently, as Chavez is accusing Washington of trying to destabilize his government, remove him from office and derail his peaceful "Bolivarian Revolution". The Venezuelan leader recently accused the U.S. government of considering his assassination as one of the ways to oust him, as past attempts have failed, according to him. Chavez has criticized the U.S. government financing of opposition groups in Venezuela through the National Endowment for Democracy, and has accused the Bush administration of being behind the 2002 coup attempt, charges that the U.S. has categorically denied several times.

Venezuela’s planned purchase of 100,000 AK-47 assault rifles and several helicopters from Russia, as well as light attack and training Super Tucano planes from Brazil, has negatively impacted the already heated relations between the leftist South American leader and the Bush administration. The arms purchase, which Venezuela says it is necessary to defend its borders from Colombian insurgents, has been criticized by Washington on the grounds that some of the weapons may fall into the hands of Colombian guerrillas, which the U.S. accuses Chavez of supporting.

However, during a U.S. visit last week, Venezuelan Minister of Foreign Relations, Alí Rodriguez, said that Venezuela would very much like to see bilateral relations with the United States improve. "There will always be differences in positions, but what we desire is that the situation improves and that we establish a relation based on mutual respect and non intervention in our affairs," the Minister emphasized, adding, "We do not intervene in the internal affairs of the United States at all."

Comment: The announcement by Navy commander Armando Laguna that the presence of U.S. warships off the coast of Venezuela is part of their "routine maneuvers" should cause legitimate alarm with the Venezuelan people, as it has become quite "routine" for the U.S. military machine to invade and occupy any sovereign nation who doesn't automatically submit to American imperialism.

It is no secret that the fascist Bush administration loathes the twice democratically elected government of Hugo Chavez, seen as an impediment to their relentless hegemony, and judging by their past actions, it seems that Mr. Chavez should have very reason to be worried about a possible assassination attempt.

What is curious about the story above, is that these warships are appearing just as the Venezuelan President is about to leave the country for Uruguay. Could a second coup attempt, or possible South American invasion be on the Neo-con agenda? Time will tell.

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UN peacekeepers kill 50 in Congo battle
Last Updated Wed, 02 Mar 2005 06:09:41 EST
CBC News

KINSHASA, CONGO - United Nations peacekeepers have killed at least 50 militiamen during a gun fight in northeastern Congo, a UN spokesperson said on Wednesday.

It took place Wednesday about 30 km north of Bunia, the capital of Ituri province, where nine Bangladeshi peacekeepers were murdered by militia last week.

"While on operation we were fired upon, so we immediately responded," said the UN's Col. Dominique Demange.

The UN operation used an attack helicopter, armoured vehicles and more than 200 peacekeepers, he said.

UN spokesperson Eliane Nabaa said the militia were part of the ethnic Lendu group Nationalist and Integrationist Front, that has spend months killing, looting and burning the homes of the rival Hema tribe. More than 70,000 people have been forced to flee their villages.

"It's time to put an end to this militia," said Nabaa.

The UN believes the same militia is responsible for the deaths of nine Bangladeshi peacekeepers in a well-organized ambush last Friday. The soliders had been on patrol outside a displaced persons camp in northeastern Congo.

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48 communist rebels killed in Nepal
Last Updated Tue, 01 Mar 2005 17:52:45 EST
CBC News

KATHMANDU - At least 48 communist rebels were killed in a clash with Nepalese soldiers at a highway blockade on Tuesday.

Police and army officials say the troops had come to clear the blockade in southwestern Nepal when rebels hiding nearby opened fire.

Two soldiers and two police officers also died in the battle.
The fighting happened in a district around 500 kilometres southwest of the capital. [...]

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Four babies and a criminal trial
BBC News
Tuesday, 1 March, 2005, 16:27 GMT

Four Bangladeshi infants have appeared in court in their parents' arms accused of looting and causing criminal damage.

The four - whose ages range from three months to two years - were released on bail after a brief hearing.

The magistrate in the southern city of Chittagong said the case did not appear to be genuine - but the truth would emerge in a police report.

Anyone can file criminal cases in Bangladesh, and the procedure is frequently used to harass people.

The magistrate, Ali Noor, told reporters that he had been "a bit surprised" to see such young children in his court.

"Everything will come out during the police investigation and the report that will be submitted to the court later," he added.

Bail has been granted at $50 per child.

The children are all members of an extended family.

Relatives said the allegations stemmed from a land dispute with a neighbour.

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23 injured in incident on Pakistan-Toronto flight
Last Updated Tue, 01 Mar 2005 16:43:27 EST
CBC News

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - More than 20 people on a flight from Pakistan to Toronto suffered injuries after a reported fire forced hundreds out of the Boeing 777 at an airport in northern England.

Police said 340 passengers and 12 crew evacuated a Pakistan International Airlines flight at Manchester Airport Tuesday morning, after smoke was spotted pouring from the plane's undercarriage.

Emergency officials said 23 passengers were treated at a hospital after receiving minor injuries as they scrambled down the plane's evacuation slides.

"They were very quick to get off the plane," said Michael Taylor, a firefighter.

"They were very frightened."

The smoke was seen shortly after the plane made a scheduled stopover en route from Karachi and Lahore in Pakistan to Toronto.

Initial reports said a fire had broken out on the plane, prompting authorities to suspend operations at the airport for 15 minutes.

Fire crews responded, but a spokesman for Greater Manchester Police said there was no evidence of a blaze.

Overheating in the undercarriage is believed to be at fault.

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Chuck E. Cheese patron hit with stun gun after loading up on salad
Associated Press — Rocky Mountain News
March 1, 2005

AURORA, Colo. — Police found themselves in the crosshairs of public criticism after officers used a Taser stun gun to subdue a man accused of pilfering from a salad bar at a Chuck E. Cheese's pizzeria packed with families and young children.

"They beat this man in front of all these kids then Tased him in my sister's lap,'' said witness Felicia Mayo, who was at the establishment with her 7-year-old son. "They had no regard for the effect this would have on the kids. This is Chuck E. Cheese, you know.''

Police responded to Chuck E. Cheese's after a manager complained that a patron had refused to show proof that he had paid for food. Police spokesman Larry Martinez said restaurant employees confronted the man, Danon Gale, 29, after they saw him "loading'' his plate with salad.

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Vietnam confirms new bird flu case
March 1, 2005

HANOI, Vietnam (AP) — A 35-year-old woman who works as a garbage collector in Hanoi is the fourth person to be confirmed with bird flu in the past week, Vietnamese health officials said Tuesday.

The three earlier cases in the last week — including one death — were all from Vietnam’s northern Thai Binh province. In the most recent case, the woman was the first person to be infected in Hanoi since September, health officials said.

Bird flu has killed a total of 46 people in Vietnam, Thailand and Cambodia since it surfaced in mass outbreaks on Asian poultry farms in 2003, then spread rapidly last year among birds across a wide swath of the region, devastating its poultry industry. Since bird flu re-emerged in Vietnam nine weeks ago, 14 people have died. [...]

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Earthquake rattles two regencies in Bali
Wahyoe Boediwardhana , The Jakarta Post, Bali

Bali was jolted by a magnitude 5.0 Richter scale tectonic earthquake on Tuesday, with residents in Amlapura, Karangasem regency and parts of Klungkung regency saying the rumbling went on for about three minutes.

According to an official at the Denpasar Meteorology and Geophysics Agency (BMG), Nyoman Sulastra, "the epicenter of the quake was located about 40 kilometers northeast of Amlapura".

The epicenter was reportedly located in the Lombok strait, about 16 km undersea. Residents in the two areas claimed they had felt the tremors four times.

The intensity of the series of aftershocks recorded by the seismograph varied between 2 to 3 magnitude on the Richter Scale.

"No casualties or material losses were reported, but people were overcome by panic. At the Karangasem police station, for instance, people were seen fleeing from building," said Bali police spokesman Sr. Comr. A.S. Reniban. [...]

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Snowstorm Hits Northeast, Closes Schools
By ROGER PETTERSON Associated Press Writer
Mar 1, 2005

— Hundreds of schools were closed and crews worked to clear slush and ice from highways Tuesday following the latest in a series of snowstorms to batter the Northeast this winter.

A foot of snow hit cities in southeastern Massachusetts, where a January storm buried some towns under 6-foot-tall drifts. A foot also was possible by Wednesday morning in parts of Maine, New York and Pennsylvania.

The storm marked the third snowfall in the Northeast in a week. [...]

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Winter storm blankets Ontario

TORONTO (CP) - Winter isn't ready to surrender its icy and snowy grip on southern Ontario just yet.

March arrived like a lion Tuesday, leaving the region digging out from under up to 15 centimetres of snow that created a lengthy, slushy and slippery morning commute.

A storm created by the merger of two low pressure systems was moving at a snail's pace. It was expected to continue through Tuesday and likely into Wednesday with areas along the lower Great Lakes due for the greatest amounts of snow. [...]

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March Opens with Record Cold
Translated from AP
Tuesday March 1, 2005, 21h55

PARIS - Certainly, the temperatures are still far from the -67,8 degrees Celsius during February of 1892 and 1933 in Verkhoïansk (Siberia), the coldest city of the northern hemisphere, according to Météo France. But at this time of the year, the last time France shivered so much was 34 years ago.

The day Monday and the night which followed set new records regarding not only the thermometer, but also electric consumption, with 86.024 megawatts Monday at 7:15 PM according to RTE, manager of the electrical grid. The preceding record dated from last January 26th, with 84.706 MW.

This keen demand, due to the "exceptional" cold wave, has even constrained France, traditionally an exporter of electricity, to import 3% of its electric consumption from Spain and Germany - something which had not happened for twenty years, RTE specifies.

The fall of the temperatures also obliged EDF to carry out rotating cuts of the electricity of the 208,000 subscribers in Corsica Monday evening in order to avoid a "rupture of the system"...

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Snow, fog bring planes, trains, roads to a standstill in Europe
TERRA.WIRE - (AFP) Mar 01, 2005

PARIS - A bitter cold snap sweeping much of Europe Tuesday claimed the life of a man in Portugal as snow and fog triggered massive pile-ups and cancellation of air and train traffic throughout the continent.

The 92-year-old man died of hypothermia at a hospital in Evora, 150 kilometres (95 miles) southeast of Lisbon, one day after he checked into the facility after spending the night alone in his unheated home, a hospital spokeswoman said.

Another 73-year-old man who also checked into the hospital Monday with severe hypothermia was still in critical condition, she added.
Temperatures fell to record lows for this time of the year in Portugal overnight.

The mercury also plunged to a 100-year low in Germany, where heaters had to be brought into zoos to keep the lions warm.

At least 25 people were injured in Germany in two pile-ups on a motorway engulfed in thick fog. Rescuers worked to cut people free from the wreckage while the motorway from Munich to Lindau in southern Germany was blocked in both directions following the crashes involving at least 100 vehicles.

A 30-car pile-up also cut off Scotland's main highway linking Glasgow to Edinburgh, but no-one was injured.

Air traffic was disrupted out of Madrid and Barcelona due to snowfall, with 180 flights grounded in Barcelona's El Prat airport alone.

Trains were forced to return to stations in Spain's Grenada and Almeria, while frozen tracks led to the cancellation of dozens of trains in Switzerland.

Ferry boats were also cancelled between Spain and Morocco due to strong winds in the Strait of Gibraltar, and port authorities in the Spanish enclave of Cueta on the Moroccan coast said winds had damaged several boats, including some police patrol boats.

Meanwhile, records were broken across the continent. The mass of snow covering the Czech Republic was "probably the largest in the last 40 years," said hydrologist Jan Danhelka.

The Swiss capital Bern registered minus 15.6 degrees CelsiusFahrenheit), its coldest ever at this time of the year since data began to be collected in 1901.

Croatia had its coldest night since 1963, with minus 21 degrees C (minus 6 in the central parts of the country.

France beat records set in 1971. It was coldest in the village of Saugues in the western region of Haute-Loire where thermometers registered minus 29.5 degrees C (minus 21 F) Tuesday morning.

Worst hit though was the Berchtesgaden region near Germany's border with Austria, with temperatures of minus 43.6 degrees C (minus 46.5 F), close to the minus 45.9-degree C (minus 50.6 F) record set in 2001. [...]

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Darwin rocked by earthquake
02 mar 05

DARWIN has been rocked by an earthquake measuring 7.5 on the Richter scale, Geoscience Australia said tonight.

The government agency which measures earthquakes said the quake struck at 8.21pm (CST) or 9.51pm (AEDT).

Its epicentre was in the Banda Sea near Indonesia.

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Widespread Arctic Warming Crosses Critical Ecological Thresholds
Reinhard Pienitz, Universite Laval, August 2002.
Kingston ON (SPX) Mar 01, 2005

Unprecedented and maybe irreversible effects of Arctic warming, linked to human intervention, have been discovered by a team of international researchers led by Queen's University biologist John Smol and University of Alberta earth scientist Alexander Wolfe.

The researchers have found dramatic new evidence of changes in the community composition of freshwater algae, water fleas and insect larvae (the base of most aquatic food webs) in a large new study that covers five circumpolar countries extending halfway around the world and 30 degrees of latitude spanning boreal forest to high arctic tundra ecosystems.

"This is an important compilation of data that human interference is affecting ecosystems on a profound scale," says Dr. Smol, Canada Research Chair in Environmental Change and 2004 winner of Canada's top science award, the Gerhard Herzberg Gold Medal.

"We're crossing ecological thresholds here, as shown by changes in biota associated with climate-related phenomena like receding ice cover in lakes. Once you pass these thresholds it's hard to go back." [...]

The new study shows that climate change has lengthened summers and reduced lake ice cover across much of the Arctic. This in turn prolongs the growing season available to highly sensitive lake organisms, and opens up new habitats. The most intense population changes occurred in the northernmost study sites, where the greatest amount of warming appears to have taken place, the researchers say. [...]

"The timing of the changes is certainly consistent with human interference, and one of the major avenues is through climate warning," notes Queen's biologist Dr. Kathleen Rûhland. "This is another example of how humans are directly and indirectly affecting global ecology."

An earlier lake sediment study co-authored by Drs. Douglas and Smol, published in the journal Science in 1994, caused controversy with its interpretation of climatic warming in three high Arctic ponds. Now, says Dr. Smol, "the tide has turned, and some of the strongest skeptics of that 1994 study are co-authors on this paper."

One area in the Canadian sub-Arctic that appears not to be warming to the same extent is in Labrador and northern Québec. Team member Reinhard Pienitz, from Université Laval, notes that this represents an important control region for the study.

The fact that no patterns of biological change are evident there supports the findings from other areas where warming has been inferred. "The changes have not been primarily caused by, for example, atmospheric deposition of contaminants," says Dr. Pienitz.

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If Aliens Can Visit, How Did They Get Here?

There have been countless accounts of alien visitations around the world, but one of the things that prompts skepticism is how they would get here in the first place.

If aliens are from another world, they must have some extraordinary means of travel — nothing like what is available anywhere on Earth. It is hard to underestimate the difficulty of going from star to star.

"The distances are so vast, the energy requirements are so extreme, it would be very, very difficult to travel between the stars," said James McGaha, a retired Air Force pilot.

A law of science, determined by Albert Einstein, says nothing can travel faster than the speed of light — 186,000 miles per second. The fastest object made by man, the Voyager spacecraft is travelling along at 11 miles per second. At that rate, the scientific probe Voyager, launched in 1977, would take 73,000 years to reach the nearest star.

As a result, some scientists think that sort of space travel is a waste of time.

"Scientifically, we have a rule: you want to be alive at the end of your experiment, not dead," said Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson, director of the Rose Center's Hayden Planetarium at the American Museum of Natural History in New York.

Einstein's Wormhole Loophole

If humans can't travel to the stars, many scientists say extraterrestrial life can't come here either.

However, Michio Kaku, one of the leading theoretical physicists in the world, says many scientists are too quick to dismiss the idea of other civilizations visiting Earth.

Einstein may have said nothing can go faster than the speed of light, but he also left a loophole, said Kaku, a professor at the City University of New York. In Einstein's theory, space and time is a fabric.

Kaku explained: "In school we learned that a straight line is the shortest distance between two points. But actually that's not true. You see, if you fold the sheet of paper and punch a hole through it, you begin to realize that a wormhole is the shortest distance between two points."

A civilization that could harness the power of stars might be able to use that shortcut through space and time, and perhaps bridge the vast distances of space to reach Earth, he said.

"The fundamental mistake people make when thinking about extraterrestrial intelligence is to assume that they're just like us except a few hundred years more advanced. I say open your mind, open your consciousness to the possibility that they are a million years ahead," he said.

Kaku believes that only this type of civilization — millions of years more advanced that us and capable of using wormholes as shortcuts — could reach Earth and might be one explanation for UFOs.

"When you look at this handful of [UFO] cases that cannot be easily dismissed, this is worthy of scientific investigation," he said. "Maybe there's nothing there. However, on that off chance that there is something there, that could literally change the course of human history. So I say let this investigation begin."

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